Wine is a famous drink and the sparkle of many a party. That apart, wine is very much in the good books of medical experts, as a health drink, known to sustain cardiovascular health and keep age related dementia at bay. So, when we raise a toast to health, it is cheers to a copious flow of health benefits.
The roots of wine are entrenched in Christianity, where wine is considered sacrosanct, alluding to the blood of Christ, which the Christians believe, is the means to salvation. The Bible has references of wine for health and enjoyment. During the 'holy communion' following a mass, people in the church receive wine and bread, signifying the blood and body of Christ, as a sign of receiving blessings from heaven.
Wine is essentially an alcoholic drink, made from the juice of fruits, primarily grapes, which undergoes a process of fermentation. Many other fruits like plum, elderberry and blackcurrant could be substituted in place of grapes, and subjected to the same process of fermentation to make wine; yet grapes are most suited because they are organically endowed to ferment completely on their own, without additives like enzymes, acids, nutrients or extra sugars.
The method adopted to make wines, called 'vinification', segregates wines into distinct types. Wines are categorized as 'sparkling', 'still', 'fortified', 'rosé', and 'blush'. Wine gets its color not so much from the juice of the grapes, which is mostly transparent and clear, but more from the skin, which is either present or absent during the fermentation process. It is often stated, older the wine the better it gets, owing to the increased levels of antioxidants in the wine. It is perhaps for this reason, vintage wines are a connoisseurs' delight, and is costlier than the rest of the class.
Red wine, made out of the juice of red or black grapes, acquires the red color due to the fermentation process that retains the skin of the grapes. White wine is made from grapes of any color, where the grapes are separated from their skin during the fermentation process. A wine is known to be 'sparkling', if it has a fizzy appearance, owing to the presence of elevated levels of carbon dioxide; Fortified wine, contains added alcohol, mostly brandy.
Wine has an alcohol content between 11 to 14 percent however fortified wines, such as port have alcohol added (such as Brandy) and this raises the alcohol content to between 18 and 20 percent.
Wine occupies an enviable position in the medical journals, and its positive effects on health are a subject of on-going discussion. Many academic insights have substantiated that alcohol in general, and red wine in particular, when consumed in moderation, is actually good for health. The reason for the protective effect is the presence of antioxidants, called flavanoids, present in the skin and seeds of red grapes, which contribute to the increase in HDL cholesterol as well as exhibit anti-clotting properties. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has corroborated this finding, and recommended intake of one to two glasses of red wine a day, which assist in reducing cholesterol, as well as reduce the chances of cancer.
A study of 34,000 middle-aged men living in eastern France conducted by Dr. Serge Renaud concluded that two to three glasses of wine a day had tremendous benefit on the heart and also prevented cancers. It helped the community to live longer; this is despite the fact that the studied population were consuming lots of saturated fat. The study is famously known as "the French paradox". Wine reduces death rates from all ailments by up to 30 percent according to Renaud.
Our ancestors knew of the advantages of wine when consumed in moderation. In fact alcohol is probably the oldest form of drug. The Apostle Paul suggested to Timothy to drink wine to help his continuous sickness and help his stomach.
Benjamin Franklin, a well-known statesman, scientist, and philosopher, extols this wonder drink, when he said, "Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy." With that note, let's raise a toast to good health!