Much has been written about the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, which reflects the foods favored in southern Italy, southern France, and Greece. Along with emphasizing healthy fats such as olive oil, eating lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, and dairy products, and consuming only moderate amounts of meat, fish, and poultry, adherents of this diet make a point of drinking a glass or two of wine every day. To get the full benefits of this diet regimen, here are some guidelines on how to choose the wine to accompany it.
Things You'll Need
- A good wine store (ideally, one that offers a broad selection of wines from outside the U.S.)
- Money to buy wine
- Wine glasses
- Wine stopper (for saving leftover wine)
Plan to drink wine only with meals. Recreational drinking is not typically part of the Mediterranean lifestyle, but a good meal without a glass of wine is unthinkable.
Drink only modest quantities. The traditional Mediterranean diet includes one to two servings of wine a day, but servings tend to be smaller than those found in U.S. restaurants. If you’re dining out, order wine by the glass and have it served with your entree. Don’t drink more than two glasses and for best results, stop at one.
Choose red wine over white. If you normally drink white wine and dislike reds, you might compromise by drinking a rose or a lighter red such as a Beaujolais or Merlot. Most of the health benefits we get from drinking wine are due to phytonutrient compounds found in the grapes’ skins and seeds. Red wine undergoes fermentation with the skins and seeds present, but when white wine is made, they are removed before any fermentation takes place. With rose wines, the skins are kept in contact with the wine just long enough to lend some pink color to it, so they offer more health benefits than white wines, but not as much as reds.
Drink younger wines. The phytonutrient levels can deteriorate over time. You’ll find that younger red wines are higher in tannin and taste much better when consumed with food.
Favor red wines that are darker and more intense in color and flavor. This generally indicates a higher level of phytonutrients, which means antioxidant polyphenols and procyanadin, which is believed to help reduce the risks of coronary heart disease.
Target wines from the Mediterranean area, particularly those from southern France, Greece, Sardinia, Sicily, and other regions in the south of Italy. These have been proven to have the highest levels of procyanadin. Wines from higher altitude growing areas, such as Washington state and some parts of Australia, also appear to be rich in procyanadin.
If your geographic options are limited when it comes to wine shopping, focus on specific grapes instead. Cabernet Sauvignon, whether it comes from California, Argentina, or Australia, tends to be high in procyanadin. “Old Vine” Zinfandel, which comes primarily from California, is another good choice, as are Malbec, Sangiovese, and Nebbiolio.