S2E13. Your Brain On Red Wine

I’ve always felt inadequate around wine drinkers. They ooze with sophistication as they immerse themselves in the complex flavors and aromas of the pampered liquid. They seem to possess a breeding, class and erudition that I lack.

It’s not like I haven’t tried to develop a taste for wine. I have.

Like most college students experimenting with pot, I tried to get into drinking wine to go along with it. Back then, you started with the fruit-punchy Bali Hai and worked your way up to Spanada and Mateus, avoiding Thunderbird and Ripple which were reserved for the old winos in the park. Then you graduated to real wine. It was part of your education.

But I flunked that course. For me, a sip of wine meant explosions of noxious tastes around the edges of my tongue. If my taste buds could have surrendered to stop the assault, they would have. And people thought this stuff was good?

Over the decades, I periodically made attempts to learn how to drink and, more importantly, like wine. I attended tastings and could swirl and sniff with the best of them, but the assault on my tongue continued. Oh, once in a while I came across something that was tolerable. And there was that one time when a friend (and wine connoisseur) sprung for a $150 bottle that was actually good. Alas…the experience was never to be repeated!

Fast forward to this past year when I discovered that drinking red wine is part of the Mediterranean Diet and, drunk in moderation, can reduce your risk of dementia. I was able to incorporate just about every other brain-healthy recommendation I came across into my diet, but not that one. One article suggested that if you don’t like wine, you can substitute 5 ounces of pomegranate juice, and so that’s the path I took, mixing the juice with 10 ounces of water and drinking it for my post-workout, cool-down hydration.

But that left me feeling somehow inadequate, as if I weren’t really implementing the plan. I’m supposed to be drinking wine, so I decided to give it another try.

I started with a google search for which red wine provided the most brain benefit and learned that it was pinot noir: “This is the healthiest red wine due to its high concentration of resveratrol, an antioxidant compound that lowers bad cholesterol and high blood pressure. Some studies also suggest that it can improve brain health, kill cancer cells, and increase insulin sensitivity.”

The recommendation comes with an asterisk, though. Let’s not forget that red wine is about 12% alcohol…and alcohol is very bad for your brain. The suggestion, then, is that you limit your intake to 1 glass (5 ounces) daily.

That seemed do-able at first, but it turns out that it’s really problematic for me. You see, I’m a cheap drunk (always have been!) and it doesn’t take much at all to get me tipsy. The first time I ever got buzzed was at the end of my freshman year in high school and all I had was half a can of Colt45 Malt Liquor!

So the 5 ounce guideline might be ok for most people, but I’ve got to believe that you need to stay on the sober side of tipsy if you want to get the resveratrol benefits without getting slammed by a bigger alcohol effect. 

Overcoming my inadequacy was not going to be easy!

I started my quest by ordering the house pinot noir whenever we went out for dinner. No, I didn’t come across anything I liked and, yes, I got buzzed on one glass.  😦

Anybody know how many ounces of wine restaurants serve in a glass of wine? Whatever it is, it’s too much for me.

Next, I asked my sister-in-law Phoebe (who, among other things, is the family expert on fine wines) for some recommendations. The first bottle I tried wasn’t bad…but it also wasn’t something I would look forward to drinking every night. I just opened the second bottle last night and it’s a little bit better, so I’m going in the right direction.

I need to play with the dosing a little more, too. I measured out 5 ounces, sipped it slowly through dinner, but could still feel the alcohol. I’ll drop it down to 4 ounces tomorrow night and see what happens, and then maybe start sipping an hour before dinner time to spread out the alcohol’s effect. 

I think I’ll ask Phoebe for another suggestion, too, as I’m encouraged enough to think there might be something out there I will enjoy. 

Overcoming my lifetime wine inadequacy could actually be within reach!



  1. hgolightly60 says:

    Remember grapes are sprayed with pesticides. According to the EWR (Environmental Working Group) they are #6 on the Dirty Dozen list. Suggestion:
    Our Daily Red organic wine. $10 a bottle and better for you! Cheers!


    1. Oy! One more thing to figure out. Thanks!


  2. Looks like I have to switch from Cabernet Sauvignon to Pinot noir! Like you, I am a very cheap drunk, and a few sips gives me a buzz. I started drinking red wine for my heart, and yes, it took a while to acquire a taste. As far as pesticides, etc., as our dear mother said, “decide how you want to die and eat accordingly!”

    Liked by 1 person


    Not everyone can properly metabolize alcohol, even in small amounts. It’s a biological issue and a fair warning from your body. There are quality American Pinot Noir brands so look into wine wholesalers after you identify the wine that tastes best. Don’t ever drink on an empty stomach, and don’t drink cheap (impure) wine. On some things you cannot scrimp!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Words of wisdom…thanks! There’s also the issue of pesticide use in growing wine grapes. What are the odds I’ll find an organic pinot noir that tastes good?


  4. Bill says:

    You would get more Res by eating grape or blueberries. Resveratrol in wine is highly variable, maybe about 1 mg per glass of the best aged dark red wine. The authors of the July 2016 study in Advances in Nutrition report that red wines typically average between 1.7 to 1.9 milligrams of trans-resveratrol per liter of alcohol. Wines high in resveratrol depend on various factors including the variety of grape being used in the fermentation process, the country the grape is grown in and even its exposure to bacterial and fungal microorganisms. Thus over 50 glasses wine needed to get needed dose.

    Red wine pills should provide about the same dose of total polyphenols found in 3-5 glasses of wine, about 60 mg per glass, or 180-300 mg of resveratrol or resveratrol + other molecules. Dose is critically important as too much resveratrol negates its protective effect in the heart and worsens a heart attack (animal studies). High-dose resveratrol pills (300-1000 mg) should be avoided. At this dose resveratrol promotes oxidation, whereas at lower doses it is an antioxidant. Many people do not consume alcohol and a red wine resveratrol pill is an option.

    Also- always side effects. dose is key. i suggest exercise benefits beats all diets / supplements.
    Resveratrol: A Double-Edged Sword in Health Benefits – PMC (nih.gov)
    Biomedicines. 2018 Sep; 6(3): 91.
    Published online 2018 Sep 9. doi: 10.3390/biomedicines6030091
    PMCID: PMC6164842
    PMID: 30205595
    Resveratrol: A Double-Edged Sword in Health Benefits
    Bahare Salehi,1,2 Abhay Prakash Mishra,3 Manisha Nigam,4 Bilge Sener,5 Mehtap Kilic,5 Mehdi Sharifi-Rad,6,* Patrick Valere Tsouh Fokou,7,* Natália Martins,8,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the deep dive into resveratrol, Bill, and for the link. Most helpful!


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