Sulfites, tannins, resveratrol… if you’ve read anything about wine, you’ve probably come across at least one of these terms. But what does all this fancy verbiage mean for your health?
Jim Harbertson, associate professor of oenology at Washington State University, has decoded all this lingo commonly found on wine bottle labels for you. So in future, you’ll know exactly what you’re drinking, and how it affects your health (beyond a nice buzz). Read on.
What Are They? Winemakers add sulfites to wine to protect it from oxidation and unwanted microbial growth, says Harbertson. They’re what keeps wine fresh and prevents it from morphing into vinegar.
The Impact On Your Health: Sulfites have developed a really bad rap for causing allergic reactions like sneezing and headaches. But in reality, only a small portion of the population exhibits a sensitivity or allergy to them. There’s also some indication that they trigger symptoms for asthmatics, but the relationship between worsened asthma symptoms and sulfites isn’t totally clear, Harbertson says.
You’ll spot ‘contains sulfites’ on most wine bottles. For most people, this is nothing to worry about. If you know for sure that you’re allergic, look for bottles labelled ‘sulfite-free’.
What Are They? Histamines sometimes crop up in wines that undergo a second fermentation to smooth out their acidity and texture, Harbertson explains. Unfortunately, it’s near impossible to tell which wines undergo this process and which don’t, without consulting the winemaker.
The Impact On Your Health: The organic nitrogenous compound is a common allergen found in foods and can cause an inflammatory response.
The good news, according to Harbertson, is that there’s no definitive research to demonstrate that histamines in wine cause human health problems.
What Are They? You know that dryness in your mouth and on your tongue after sipping certain kinds of vino? Tannins cause that sensation. They’re astringent polyphenols that get produced during the winemaking process.
The Impact On Your Health: While tannins could be disease-fighting, Harbertson points out that “they tend to get bound up in salivary proteins and proteins in the human digestive system, so their health benefits are somewhat limited”.
He adds that most tannins are often found in full-bodied red wines such as Shiraz or Merlot.
What Is It? You might’ve spotted the name of this antioxidant on the packaging of beauty serums and creams touting its anti-ageing properties. But you’ll be hard-pressed to find a wine label doing the same.
Health Benefits: The pros of resveratrol are many including helping heart health, protecting against atherosclerosis, it’s cancer-fighting properties and promotion of healthy brain function. There’s supposed to be a higher concentration in red wine versus white but, “based on current studies, it’s not clear that there’s a health benefit of drinking resveratrol because its concentration in wine is low,” Harbertson explains. So there’s goes the excuse for a second glass of Cab!