No, wine is not healthy, and any attempt to make it so does a disservice to wine and to health
How do we know something bizarre is going on in wine? Because “healthy wine” is all the rage. Or, as a wine marketing friend told me recently: “I’m receiving an insane amount of press requests (and coverage) about low-calorie / keto / sugar per content wines from lifestyle media. And I am quite confused, to be honest.”
Never fear. The Wine Curmudgeon is here to make sense out of the nonsensical.
Diets and diet fads are like fashion – someone is always reinventing the hemline, and what was au courant 20 or 30 years ago is au courant again. Keto, for instance, bears more than a passing resemblance to the infamous Atkins diet, and Atkins may well have its roots in something especially nasty – the so-called diet plate of cottage cheese, canned fruit, and hamburger patty that was the rage from the late 1950s to the early 1970s.
And who can forget when pizza and beer were diet food?
So no, it’s not surprising that lifestyle writers – whose knowledge of trends is much more detailed than their knowledge of wine – are agog over “healthy wine.” After all, lifestyle writers gave us “Mommy wine,” as well as the neo-Prohibitionist terror that alcoholic mommies, zombie-like, are walking among us.
In this respect, “healthy” wine makes sense. Why not tell people that they can drink wine and still maintain a healthy lifestyle? It’s what they want to hear, for one thing, and it sort of, maybe, kind of, has a little medical validity. Everyone should consume fewer calories and less sugar, and the idea behind “healthy” wine is that it has fewer calories and less sugar – mostly because it has less alcohol.
That wine is not healthy – that it can be addictive and kill you — is just a minor inconvenience that the lifestyle writers will be sure to mention in a sentence or two about three-quarters of the way down the story.
A friend of mine, who writes about this subject with the same passion and crankiness that I bring to wine scores and ingredient labels, has said that the entire idea of “healthy” wine is not just a fraud, but a disservice to wine. If you want to drink wine and be healthy, then drink wine in moderation. Why buy special wine that almost certainly won’t taste as good (low- and no-alcohol wines are notoriously noxious) and will cost as much as traditional wine?
Because, as I learned as a young newspaperman, there’s only one way to lose weight and to be healthy: Eat less and exercise more. Everything else is just lifestyle writing.