Are There Health Benefits To Drinking Red Wine?

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on September 13, 2023
7 min read

Red wine is an alcoholic drink with a deep red color that comes from dark-colored grapes. To produce red wine, winemakers ferment crushed grapes, including the grape skin. Yeast grows and takes in the natural sugars, converting them into alcohol. The grape skin gives red wine some of its color and flavor.

Tannins, which are a group of naturally occurring chemicals found in plant cells present in wine, form during fermentation and are responsible for the wine's bitter but pleasant taste.

There is some evidence that drinking red wine may offer health benefits. If you are a nondrinker, health experts do not recommend that you start drinking alcohol. But if you enjoy alcohol in moderation, red wine is worth considering.

Red wine may be healthier than white wine because of the different fermentation processes. Unlike red wine, most white wine is fermented after the grape skins are separated from the mashed fruit and juice. As many of the antioxidants in grapes are in the skin, red wine contains more antioxidants than white wine.

Antioxidants are important for maintaining good health because they protect your cells from damage. The antioxidants found in wine are polyphenols, which are compounds found in plants. One polyphenol in red wine that is of interest to scientists is resveratrol, which may have benefits including protection for your brain, heart, and body.


There are more than 10,000 varieties of wine grapes internationally, including about 50 different types of red wine.

Cabernet Sauvignon. Internationally, this wine comes from the most planted and popular red wine grape. Cabernet Sauvignon is considered to be bold and tannic, with flavor notes including blackberry, black cherry, vanilla, and green pepper.

Merlot. Merlot is similar in flavor to Cabernet but has some additional flavor notes, including plum and mint. It ripens earlier than Cabernet.

Malbec. The flavor of Malbec relies more on tannins, including plum, black cherry, chocolate, and mocha. It is considered to pair well with certain meats such as beef, pork, and bison.

Zinfandel. The California variety of Zinfandel is usually bold, with ripe flavors including blueberry and peach. Try it with barbecue and other meals with richly flavored meat. White Zinfandel is a blush wine made from this type of red wine variety.

Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir provides various flavors including mushroom, strawberry, and cola. It's bright and acidic and is lighter in body and color than a lot of other red wines. It is very versatile and goes well with poultry and seafood.

There are also many dessert wines that are made from dried grapes, providing a deep sweetness.

Some varieties of sweet red wine include:

Port. Port wine is made in many different styles, all of which have a higher alcohol level (up to 20%) than other red wines because of the distilled grape spirits that are added during fermentation. Port wines are very sweet, have a lot of flavor, and are full-bodied, so you can sip them alone or pair them with cheese or nutty desserts.

Brachetto d’Acqui. This type of red wine is usually light, effervescent, and slightly sweet and fruity. Try it with spicy or mildly sweet dishes.

Lambrusco. This is a red sparkling wine that can be dry but is usually somewhat sweet and fruity. It has a slightly bitter taste at the end and can go nicely with sausages and other meats and cheeses.

One serving of red wine is about 5 ounces. The nutritional value may vary slightly according to the variety. On average, one serving of red wine contains:

  • Calories: 125
  • Protein: 0.1 gram
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 4 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams
  • Sugar: 1 gram

The bulk of the calories in red wine comes from alcohol, and the remaining calories are from carbohydrates. The carbohydrates in red wine come from the grape skin, seed extract, and leftover sugars from the grapes.

 Red wine also contains small amounts of vitamins and minerals, including:

  • Iron
  • Calcium
  • Potassium
  • Phosphorus

Some benefits of drinking red wine can be traced to the alcohol itself, so any alcoholic drink used in moderation could have the same effect. Other research into the health benefits of red wine focuses on the particular qualities of red wine, many of which have not been fully explored.

Scientists have found these possible health benefits of red wine consumption:

Blood pressure control

The antioxidants in red wine could lower blood pressure. In a few studies of people with slightly elevated blood pressure, red wine extract lowered readings. Both systolic and diastolic pressure improved. The studies concluded that the polyphenols in red wine were responsible.

Heart health

Although more research is needed, some studies show that red wine is good for heart health because it helps reduce the risk of plaque buildup in the arteries.

Cancer risk reduction

Resveratrol, a polyphenol in red wine, has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and may reduce the risk of cancer by discouraging cancer cell growth. Although more human studies are needed to confirm this effect, early research on resveratrol in wine has shown its cardiovascular benefits. It's possible, however, that compounds other than resveratrol in red wine are responsible for a lower risk of certain cancers, including colon and prostate cancer.

Reduced risk of Alzheimer's

The polyphenols, which occur naturally in red wine, prevent the formation of certain proteins that create toxic plaques that can kill brain cells. These polyphenols can also lessen the plaque toxicity that is already present in the body, thus reducing cognitive decline.

Research shows that drinking in moderation could reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia vs. no alcohol intake. Some effects of alcohol on the brain, including reduced blood thickness and increases in HDL or “healthy” cholesterol, seem to show that moderate alcohol consumption may help lower the risk of developing dementia. However, we need more research on this.

Lower risk of diabetes

A large study of current drinkers showed that a moderate intake of alcohol, especially wine, with meals could reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. The results were not the same for heavy drinking or drinking alcohol without a meal. The association between moderate alcohol consumption and reduced risk of new-onset type 2 diabetes is inconclusive. Talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks of moderate drinking.

While some studies have shown the health benefits of drinking red wine, you should weigh the benefits against the risks and keep in mind the dangers of alcohol abuse.

Drinking red wine presents some potential health risks:

Wine allergies

About 10% of the population is at risk of an allergic reaction to wine. Many components of wine can trigger a reaction, including yeast, molds, and sulfites. Even the flavonoids, which make red wine healthy, can cause an intolerance reaction. Red wine is one of the forms of alcohol most likely to cause a reaction in people with asthma.

Excessive drinking

Many people struggle with excessive alcohol consumption. The CDC states that an average of 1 in 6 American adults binge drink. Binge drinking is defined as consuming four or more drinks on an occasion for women and five or more for men. Many drinkers, especially those who drink heavily, which is defined as eight or more alcoholic drinks in a week in women and 15 or more in men, underreport their alcohol consumption. Hence, the problem may be worse than reports indicate.

Pregnancy concerns

Those who are pregnant should not drink alcohol. This precaution extends to those planning to get pregnant and to those who are breastfeeding. All types of alcohol, including red wine, should be avoided.

Alcohol and gout

People who suffer from gout should not drink at all. Consumption of alcohol, including wine, can worsen gout symptoms, including increased urate levels. Higher levels of uric acid in the bloodstream are a trigger for gout.

Liver damage

Drinking too much alcohol of any kind can damage the liver, leading to conditions such as cirrhosis. Alcohol can even worsen conditions caused by a virus, such as hepatitis C.

Unwanted weight gain

Wine contains a lot of calories per serving. Even moderate drinking affects your daily caloric intake, which at high levels can cause weight gain.

Increased risk of some cancers

Heavy drinking is linked to some cancers, including those of mouth and throat, esophagus, voice box, liver, colon and rectum, and breast. Chemicals that form in our bodies from drinking alcohol damage our DNA. This damage can result in a cell growing uncontrollably and leading to a cancer tumor.


Alcohol can cause physical and psychological dependence. Scientists believe that if you have a family history of misusing alcohol, you have a 50% chance of being prone to alcohol abuse and addiction. Long-term alcohol dependence can weaken your immune system and make your body more prone to infections. It can also affect your body’s stress response, which increases your risk for many chronic diseases.