The 5 Healthiest Types of Wine, Ranked

Here's how a nutritionist rates wines, from dry reds to sweet whites.

If you like wine, you've probably raised a glass (or two) to the reports that drinking it is good for you. Wine contains antioxidants that can help reduce the risk of heart disease by decreasing the level of "bad" cholesterol and increasing the level of "good" cholesterol in your blood.

But you might be wondering, are certain wines healthier than others? The short answer is yes. Read on for my ranking of wines based on the health protection they may offer—and why moderation is key, regardless of what you pour into your glass.

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Healthiest Wines

Each type of wine offers different benefits because they are made differently. Since wine can be made in different ways, each wine may have different grape varieties and methods of production and storage.

Red Wine

Ruby red wines are the healthiest, with more antioxidants than all the other varieties. Red wine has eight times more antioxidants than white wine. That's because the grape skins aren't removed during fermentation. The antioxidants have been linked to health benefits, including heart disease protection and possibly longevity.

The antioxidants in red wine can decrease the levels of "bad" cholesterol and boost the levels of "good" cholesterol in your blood, which can reduce the risk of heart disease. Daily consumption of red wine is linked to a 12% increase in "good" cholesterol.

Drinking red wine in moderation may also increase your lifespan because of the chemical resveratrol found in the red grapes' skin. Resveratrol acts like an antioxidant and may prevent heart function decline due to age.

The resveratrol content of red wine has additional health benefits, too—it may decrease the risk of colon and prostate cancer.

Orange Wines

After red, your best bet is orange wine, described as "white wine made like a red." In white wine making, the skins are typically removed just after the grapes are pressed. In orange wines—made with green grapes—the skins and seeds remain in contact with the juice, resulting in an orange hue. This is why orange wine is sometimes called "skin contact wine."

While the skins and seeds ferment in the grape juice, their good-for-you antioxidants (polyphenols) seep into the juice, providing antioxidant content similar to red wine.

Since orange wine has similar antioxidant content to red wine, it may offer similar health benefits. Orange wine may be beneficial for your heart health and protect you from heart disease.


Rosé can be made with any red grape and is made worldwide—the United States, Spain, France, Italy, Australia, and Chile produce rosé.

The wine-making process includes "skin contact" time but is shorter than with red wine and orange wine. Less contact time means fewer antioxidants than red wine but more than white wine.

The crisp, bright flavor of rosé makes it a great choice in the spring and summer months and pairs well with a variety of foods—chicken, fish, pasta, and grilled lean meats, to name a few.

Dry Whites

In white wine production, there is generally no "skin contact" time, which means phytonutrients from the skin don't make their way into the wine because the skin is removed during fermentation. Since most of the benefits come from the skin, white wine doesn't have the same potentially protective properties of its more colorful counterparts.

While it's not as healthy as red, orange, or rose, it is healthier than a sweet white wine because it contains less sugar.

Sweet Whites

Sweet white wines are sweet because, of course, they contain more sugar. During the fermentation process, yeast is added to the grape juice, which causes the sugar from the grapes to convert to alcohol and carbon dioxide.

Producers use methods for sweet wines to ensure some of the grape sugar remains before bottling. For comparison, a six-ounce serving of Moscato contains 27 grams of carbs, with 17 as sugar. Compare that to a five-ounce portion of chardonnay, which has three grams of carbs with one as sugar.

Pros and Cons of Drinking Wine

In addition to the antioxidants in wine offering health benefits and protection from heart disease, drinking wine can be a fun social event and an enjoyable eating experience when paired with different foods and flavors.

Keep in mind that consuming alcohol above moderate intake increases the risk of heart disease. It is linked to a higher risk of:

  • Liver disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Cancer of the gastrointestinal tract
  • Breast cancer
  • Stroke

Even in moderation, wine and other types of alcohol are associated with a greater risk of breast cancer and other cancers. Additionally, a review concluded that more than five drinks a week might shorten your life span.

Recommended Daily Wine Intake

Make sure you stay within the recommended guidelines for the amount of wine or alcohol you consume. The current nutrition and health guidelines recommend a maximum of one drink a day for women and two for men.

For wine, one drink is defined as five ounces, which is a little less than the size of a yogurt container—and your drink allowance doesn't "roll over," meaning you can't abstain for three days and then drink more than five ounces in one night.

Recommendation from a Nutritionist

No matter what type of wine you choose, I recommend purchasing organic wine because it's better for the environment and avoids pesticide residues.

One study found pesticides or their by-products on 49 grape and wine samples. While we don't fully know the effects, one study showed links between pesticide residue exposure and infertility. Whatever the type of wine, choose organic whenever you can.

A Quick Review

All this means is that how much you drink is far more important than what you drink. Wine may provide benefits such as a longer life and protection from heart disease. But if you want the benefit of the protective antioxidants in wine without drinking wine, you can always consume them in the form of whole dark grapes; add a splash of Concord grape juice to your water; and choose dark green, orange/red, and blue/purple fruits and vegetables to your daily choices.

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