Grapes are one of the most cultivated fruits in the world, more than bananas, oranges or apples. Grapes are loved by everyone. They are used in many products including wine, jam, jelly, syrup and vinegar. A natural source of beneficial components, more than 70 million tons of grapes are produced annually around the globe, but only a small percentage is used as fresh fruit. The majority are turned into wine.
Grape growing is as old as civilization. The cultivation of grapes started 8,000 years ago and since then, the grape is a major source in wine production. The conversion of grapes into wine takes place by crushing and blending grapes into a liquid and then allowing the yeast to transform it into an alcoholic beverage.
In ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, grapes and wine were important in dining and social rituals. Furthermore, wine has a long history of use as an early form of medication, being recommended variously as a safe alternative to drinking water, an antiseptic for treating wounds, a digestive aid, and as a cure for a wide range of ailments including lethargy, diarrhoea and the pain of child birth.
These days, regular and moderate consumption of wine, particularly polyphenol-rich red wine, has been associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular conditions, type 2 diabetes and many types of cancer. Polyphenols present in wine independently provide antioxidant protection, decrease platelet aggregation and increase endothelial function. Wine polyphenols also act through a variety of mechanisms to prevent and attenuate inflammatory responses, thereby serving as possible cardio protective, neuro-protective, and chemo-preventive agents.
In recent years, several studies have cited the Mediterranean diet as an example of healthy eating and has, in fact, become the reference diet for the prevention of cardiovascular disease of which red wine seems to be an essential component.
The so-called “French paradox” advocates that consuming red wine daily not only helps the cardiovascular system, but also increases one’s lifespan, due to the resveratrol found in the skins and tannins of red grapes. France surpasses many countries in average life expectancy, partly due to the common practice of drinking wine with meals. The French consume red wine moderately at two to three glasses daily, reducing the unhealthy effects of high cholesterol foods common in the French diet which includes breads, cheeses, and rich desserts.
The excellent health associated with the Mediterranean diet, which combines moderate wine consumption with a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, suggests that wine polyphenols have synergistic effects with compounds found in other types of food. Discovering the nutritional properties of wine is a challenging task, which requires that the biological actions and bioavailability of the numerous individual phenolic compounds be analysed and assessed within the societal factors that accompany wine consumption. Changing lifestyle and dietary habits may present more benefits than medical care, yet adjusting individual dietary habits is a challenge involving trade-offs between nutrition, taste, price, convenience, and cost.
Adding wine to the diet of already healthy individuals may offer extra benefits. However, wine consumption does not replace a healthy lifestyle or a necessary pharmacotherapy. Yet, light-to-moderate wine drinkers, without medical complications, may be assured that their wine consumption is a healthy habit. Those with serious health conditions should avoid alcohol altogether or consult a doctor about whether it's safe to drink.
Wine is one of the healthiest alcohols around, thanks to the fact that it can naturally contain iron, fluoride, potassium, manganese, phosphorus and b vitamins, all of which are needed daily in a healthy, balanced diet. It has been established that red wine contains antioxidants called flavonoids which reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by decreasing the bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein-LDL), and boosting the good cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein-HDL). Research has shown that a daily dose of red wine is linked to, on average, a 12% increase in HDL.
However, not all wine is “created equal”, with red wine containing eight times as many flavonoids as white wine. Region, winemaking practices, variety, harvest timing, and growing methods can all impact on resveratrol levels of wine, which leaves the door open to purposefully modifying those factors to increase resveratrol levels.
Of course, these compounds are present in a complex mixture and almost certainly antagonize and synergize in vivo. The complexity increases when considering that we all metabolize wine differently. Even if it were possible to determine that one particular wine type was the “healthiest”, each vintage is impacted by soil type, geographical region, climate, insecticides and seasonal variations. Therefore, essentially no two bottles of wine have the exact same chemical composition. The storage procedures and duration of wine aging after it is purchased may also alter its chemical profile.
Scientists advise consumers to stay away from huge wineries, because their wine is made by chemists and they tend to mellow the wine out to save aging time, which reduces resveratrol. They suggest that consumers should stick to boutique or traditional old-fashioned wineries, where the winemaker is not a chemical engineer.
While alcohol may have some healthful properties, according to the American Heart Association, it should only be consumed in moderation. It is recommended that women drink, at most, one 150mL glass of wine a day. Men should only drink at most one to two 150mL glasses of wine. More than this can lead to serious health complications, including alcoholism, increased blood pressure, cancer, obesity and stroke.
Although these are general recommendations for women and men, individual ideals may vary based on age, gender, genetics, body type, and drug/supplement use. The pattern of wine consumption is also important. Moderate regular drinking gives many health benefits that are lost when drinking is only periodic and heavy, even though the weekly average amount may be the same.
The calorie content of alcoholic beverages is often a mystery to many people. Many believe wine is high in sugar because it is made from grapes. However, that’s not the case because the fermentation process in wine-making converts sugars into alcohol. Only sweet or dessert wines are high in sugar. We often drink wine with a meal. But did you know that a large glass of wine (250 ml) with 13% alcoholic strength or Alcohol by Volume (ABV) can add 228 calories to your meal? Depending on the wine, one glass of wine can range between 110–300 calories. The range has to do with alcohol content, inherent sweetness of the wine and serving size. The following information will give you some familiar examples of wines and how many calories they have by the glass.
An indicator you can use to approximate calories which is normally found on the bottle label is the Alcohol by Volume (ABV) percentage. ABVs can range from 9% for low-alcohol wines up to 15% for some dry wines. An ABV that’s between 9% and 12% equals 110 to 140 calories per 180 ml pour. So a lower-alcohol wine has fewer calories than higher-alcohol wines. In general, white wines tend to be lower in alcohol and calories than reds. Most of the calories in wine come from alcohol, which has 7 calories per gram. Most of the rest come from carbohydrates in the form of sugar, which has 4 calories per gram. But most table wines are dry and have relatively little sugar, so it’s mostly the alcohol content that drives the calories.
While light whites have around 120 calories or less per 150 ml glass, a light red has between 135 to 165 calories, while a higher-alcohol red like Syrah can have up to 200 in a glass. If you drink Sauvignon Blanc, you will get 119 calories in 150mL (5 fl oz.), or 595 calories in a bottle. Chardonnay has slightly more – 123 calories.
To calculate the number of grams of alcohol in a bottle or glass of wine, use this formula:
Volume (ml) x alcohol (ABV %) x 8 Divided by 1000
Multiplying this answer by seven (7) will give you the approximate calorie content.
Using this model, a standard bottle of wine at 750 ml with an ABV of 13.5% would have approximately 567 calories.
Wines with typically higher alcohol content come from warmer growing regions such as Cyprus where higher sugar content in grapes converts to higher alcohol content in wine. Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon have 122 calories in 5 fl oz. (150 ml) or 610 calories per bottle. Super high alcohol sweet wines like Port and Cyprus Commandaria are rich in sugar plus alcohol calories. To make these fortified wines, neutral grape spirits are added in order to halt the yeast from eating the sugars and leave sweetness in the wine. A standard 60 ml glass of port has 103 calories.
As already indicated, each particular variety of wine will have a varying calorie count per glass. The biggest impact on the calorie count is, unsurprisingly, the alcohol content. So if you are drinking a rather lovely, full-bodied 14% alcohol red wine rather than a lighter table wine, you can count on there being a handful more calories per glass. But life is too short to worry about being that precise!
Lastly, never forget that wine is not just a delicious drink, but also rich in a wide range of nutrients. However,. Nearly all research into the positive medical benefits of wine consumption makes a distinction between moderate consumption and heavy drinking. Moderate and regular consumption of wine does, indeed, associate with many health benefits. These levels vary according to age, gender, genetics, weight and body stature, as well as situational conditions such as food consumption or use of drugs. Wine – and particularly red wine – has a number of potential health benefits when consumed in moderation. It is always worth remembering Louis Pasteur’s words: “Wine is the most healthful and most hygienic of beverages”.