The 5 Healthiest Types of Wine, Ranked

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

The Health Benefits of Different Wines

If you like wine, you've probably raised a glass (or two) to the reports that drinking it is good for you. Some research has shown that moderate wine drinkers are leaner, exercise more, and consume more antioxidants, including those not found in wine. 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.

Dry Reds

Ruby red wines are the healthiest wines, with more antioxidants than all the other varieties. That's because the grape skins aren't removed during fermentation. The antioxidants the dark skins provide, such as procyanidins, have been linked to health benefits including heart disease protection, and possibly longevity.

For the record, researchers noted that wines from southwest France and Sardinia tend to have higher levels of procyanidins. On average, wines from these two areas had five times more procyanidins than wines from Spain, South America, the U.S., and Australia.

Orange Wines

After dry red, your best bet is orange wine, which has been 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—which are made with green grapes—the skins and seeds remain in contact with the juice (for anywhere from one week to one year), which results in a wine with an orange hue. This is why orange wine is sometimes referred to as "skin contact wine." While the skins and seeds are fermenting in the grape juice, their good-for-you antioxidants (called polyphenols) seep into the juice, providing antioxidant content similar to red wine.


Rosé can be made with any type of red grape and is made all over the world—the United States, Spain, France, Italy, Australia, and Chile all produce rosé. The wine making process includes "skin contact" time, but is shorter than with red wine and orange wine. For red wine, it may be one to two months; whereas for rosé, it's often 2 to 20 hours. 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. While I don't think dry white is a "bad" choice, it's just missing some of the potentially protective properties of its more colorful counterparts. And for people with a sensitivity to sulfites (often found in cured meats, some dried fruit, baked goods, commercially prepared soups, sauces, and gravies) white wine typically contains a little more sulfites than red wine.

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. For sweet wines, producers use methods to make sure some of the grape sugar remains before bottling. For comparison, a five-ounce pour of Moscato contains 21 grams of carbs, with 13 as sugar. Compare that to the same portion of chardonnay, which has 3 grams of carbs with 1 as sugar. Think of these varieties as dessert, and make them an occasional treat.

Pros and Cons of Drinking Wine

In addition to the antioxidants in wine offering health benefits, drinking wine can be a fun social event and an enjoyable eating experience when paired with different foods and flavors. But it's also important to talk about the disadvantages of consuming alcohol.

Consuming alcohol above moderate intake increases the risk of heart disease and is linked to a higher risk of liver cirrhosis, high blood pressure, cancers of the upper gastrointestinal tract, and stroke.

Even in moderation, wine and other types of alcohol are associated with a greater risk of breast cancer and other cancers, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). Plus, a 2018 review of 83 studies concluded that more than five drinks a week may shorten life span.

So make sure you don't go overboard with 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 nope, your drink allowance doesn't "roll over"—meaning you can't abstain for three days and then polish off a whole bottle in one night.

A Few Final Notes

I recommend purchasing organic wine, both because it's better for the environment, and to avoid pesticide residues. In one French report, 100% of 92 wines tested contained pesticide residues and a 2021 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.

What's more, organic wines don't contain added sulfites, preservatives that can trigger reactions for some people—from a stuffy nose and sneezing to asthma-like symptoms and headaches. Whatever the type, choose organic whenever you can.

What all this means is that how much you drink is far more important than what you drink. And if you have a family history of breast cancer, not drinking at all may offer the best protection. As for those protective antioxidants in red wine, you can gobble them up in the form of whole dark grapes; add a splash of Concord grape juice to your H2O; and choose dark green, orange/red, and blue/purple fruits and vegetables to your daily choices.

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