A nurse for 27 years, Penny Raulston is just the person to ask about the health benefits of wine. After working 12-plus hour days in the medical field for decades, Raulston, along with her husband, started what she calls a “mad scientist experiment” making wine at home. Almost two years later, Raulston owns Elevation 966 Winery in Greenville and is working on her level 1 sommelier certification.
“Opening a bottle of wine engages all the senses,” said Raulston. “There’s an involuntary response to the sound of the cork popping out of the bottle, one of the main reasons I won’t go to screw tops. The whole body responds saying, ‘This is going to be so good.’ Relaxation inevitably follows.”
According to scientists, it’s not just the alcohol in wine or the sound of the cork releasing its aroma that promotes relaxation. Corticosterone is a hormone that is produced when the body is stressed, and too much of it can lead to anxiety and depression. Believe it or not, a study on mice showed that a polyphenol in red wine can reduce concentrations of corticosterone in the brain. The same polyphenol has been shown to prevent heart disease.
“The polyphenols that are credited with health benefits are mostly found in red varietals,” Raulston explained.
These polyphenols come from the grape skins and contain resveratrol, an antioxidant that is hailed for lowering cholesterol, boosting immunity and increasing circulation. Raulston insists on moderation, of course, and is partial to a Cabernet Sauvignon, although you’ll also find a Malbec, Pinot Noir, Merlot and various red blends on the wine list at Elevation 966.
Red wines contain the polyphenol resveratrol thanks to the time the wine spends fermenting with the grape skins. White wines are made from the pulp of the grape, not the skins, so they are not celebrated for their health benefits. That said, although white wine isn’t as extensively studied, existing studies claim that they might offer heart-related benefits similar to those in red wine, even though they do not contain resveratrol. According to molecular tests of heart cells in rats at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine in Farmington, for example, white wine may protect the cells’ powerhouses – mitochondria.
As you might imagine, studies on the health benefits of red wine abound. From increasing bone density to reducing the risk of stroke, red wine has been considered beneficial for those who enjoy it regularly, though in limited quantities. For men, up to two glasses per day is considered moderate consumption, while women are encouraged to limit consumption to one glass per day – keeping in mind, of course, that a proper pour is 5 ounces, no matter how good the vintage.
Consuming any more than the recommended daily serving quickly turns benefits into risks.
While there are many convincing arguments and studies in favor of pouring a glass of wine to “settle the day,” Raulston said the most important health benefit of wine is the social aspect of sharing a glass with others. Especially after the isolation of a pandemic, Raulston sees families and friends sharing a glass of wine as a hopeful reunion after a long and trying year.
“There’s a reason a bottle is 750 ml; it’s meant to be shared in celebration and coming together with those we love,” said Raulston.
Raulston admittedly didn’t get into the wine industry for health reasons but her new endeavor has provided a welcome change to her life and her palate. She thoroughly enjoys sharing her
passion for wine with guests and encouraging them to find a wine that awakens their senses. If health benefits follow, so be it.