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As the holiday season comes into full swing, let's take a look at an ancient and favorite adult beverage, wine.

What is wine?

Wine is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented grapes. Humans have made and consumed wine for millennia.

There are four familiar types of still wine.

  • Red wines are made from dark-colored grapes and include the skin in fermentation and wine production.Subscribe for weekly updates_ go.msu.edu/cris-connect
  • White wines are typically made from the juice of white grapes and don't include skins in the fermentation and wine production process. 
  • Rosé wines are made from many different types of grapes and typically include the skin in the fermentation process but to a lesser extent than red wine.
  • Orange (Amber) wines are made from white grapes but include the skin in the wine production process. 

Wines may undergo additional fermentation to produce carbonation. These sparkling wines can come in any type listed above.  

There are also fortified wines, that have additional ingredients and are often referred to as "dessert wine" and dealcoholized wines, which remove the ethanol from the wine (1). 

Are there other types of wine?

While the term wine typically refers to the beverage made with grapes, other fruits can be used to make beverages called "wine." For example, apples, strawberries, blueberries, etc., can be used to make fruit wines.

When we use honey to make an alcoholic beverage, it's called mead rather than wine. Meads are another ancient alcoholic beverage humans have created and consumed for millennia.

We can also use grains such as rice and barley to produce alcoholic beverages similar to wines. However, they don't undergo the same production process as wine or fruit wines. 

What ingredients are needed to make a bottle of wine?

Winemakers use many different ingredients to create their wines. Typically, we'll find a combination of the below components. 

  • Acids (Tartaric acid, Malic acid): These may be added to improve or impact the desired flavor.
  • Calcium Carbonate: May be added to ensure the desirable acid level. 
  • Enzymes (Pectinases): Different enzymes are added during the wine-making process to help break down the grapes and extract the needed compounds for wine. 
  • Flavors: Wine may be put in contact with ingredients like oak to help impart the desired flavor.
  • Grapes: The grape variety and chosen process will determine the type of wine (e.g., red, white, etc.). 
  • Potassium sorbate/metabisulfite: This helps protect the yeast by preventing unwanted bacteria from forming. 
  • Sugar: Sugar may be added during the wine-making process depending on the wine produced. Typically the yeast will digest the sugar in the fermentation process, creating alcohol. 
  • Sulfur dioxide (sulfites): Helps prevent oxidation by destroying unwanted bacteria and yeast that can ruin the wine. 
  • Tannins: Tannins naturally occur in grapes, but tannin powder may be added to achieve the desired outcome.  
  • Yeast: Yeast naturally occurs on grapes and will consume the sugar in the grapes during fermentation. Sometimes, cultured yeast is added during the wine-making process to ensure consistent outcomes. 

What ingredients do we find in the final product?

Typically, water and ethanol (alcohol) are the two most prevalent ingredients making up ~97% of a bottle. The other ingredients include sugars, phenols (e.g., resveratrol), acids, and more found in small amounts (1).

The winemaker's ingredient selection will determine the overall composition of the final wine. 

Is wine healthy?

The research on wine safety is still inconclusive. Some studies say alcohol, regardless of type, will adversely impact our health. Other studies say limited amounts of red wine may benefit our health.

While there is no definitive answer, like all things in life, moderation is essential for long-term health. 

Additionally, safe alcohol consumption will differ from person to person based on their health, size, and other factors. It's best to ask your healthcare provider about safe levels of alcohol consumption if you have underlying health conditions or are taking medications. 

Do ingredients in wine cause headaches?

If you consume too much of any alcoholic beverage, you may experience a headache due to dehydration or vasodilation. Vasodilation means our blood vessels dilate or expand, which can lead to headaches. 

Regarding wine, some experts say yes, the ingredients can cause headaches, but they do not necessarily agree on the ingredient that causes them. 

Some people find the naturally occurring histamine from grapes may cause headaches. Other people report headaches induced by tannin, which can cause our bodies to release serotonin which can cause headaches in some people. Still, others believe sulfites are to blame (1).

Individuals will react differently to ingredients. It's best not to consume foods and beverages that cause adverse health reactions. 

The good news.

As with all things, moderation is key. We can safely enjoy a glass of wine during the holidays, but it's best not to overindulge.

If you have any questions about foods and ingredients, please reach out to us on Twitter, send us an email, or submit your idea to us at go.msu.edu/cris-idea.

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