red wine

A glass of good red can actually be beneficial as long as it’s really just one glass. Image: Pixabay

Glass a day keeps the doc away: Wines to boost your immunity

Studies show red wine has clear health benefits but always in moderation, of course.

red wine

A glass of good red can actually be beneficial as long as it’s really just one glass. Image: Pixabay

South Africans love their wine, and rightly so, as we have some of the best wines in the world.

And now we may have even more reason to love our favourite drink – studies have shown a compound found in red wine could be linked to boosting the immune system.

Researchers at the University of Florida in the US have found that, unlike many other alcoholic beverages, red wine does not suppress the immune system. In fact, it may help to boost it.

Many studies have shown that red wine in moderation may have some health benefits, including helping with longevity, lower blood pressure, and preventing coronary heart disease and some cancers.

Could red wine actually be healthy? Thankfully, yes, and enjoying a glass of wine can be part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. However, moderation is key and it is also important to realise that not all red wine is the same. Different reds have different different levels of antioxidants.

How red wines can boost the immune system

Red wine contains naturally occurring compounds called polyphenols, which are found in the skins of berries, specifically grape skins. There are different kinds of polyphenols, including antioxidants like procyanidins and resveratrol, each of which has its own health benefits.

Resveratrol enhances the body’s ability to create anti-inflammatory molecules, which may lead to an improvement in the immune system. This antioxidant helps healthy gut bacteria to flourish by stimulating T-cell production and enhancing the body’s immune response. 

Best wines to boost your immunity 

nebbiolo grapes Italy
Nebbiolo grapes from the Langhe wine region in Piemonte, Italy. Image: Adobe Stock

The best wines for boosting the immune system are wines high in resveratrol and procyanidins, and low in residual sugar – the natural sugars left behind from the fermentation process. 

Dry red wines with high levels of tannins and antioxidants should be your go-to varietals during cold and flu season. Some wines with high tannin levels may have an astringent or slightly bitter taste, so if you get headaches from the tannins, go for a low-tannin red with high levels of resveratrol like Pinot Noir.


Merlot is the most planted of all grapes in France and the fourth most planted grape after Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage and Shiraz. It’s plummy, cassis-like flavours make it one of the more popular drinking wines with a softer, more seductive flavour than Cabernet.

And it’s good for you as it has high levels of the antioxidant procyanidin. Studies have shown that Merlot has demonstrated positive effects on the immune system.


Malbec is a full-bodied red grape that grows mostly in Argentina. It is renowned for its plump, dark fruit flavours and smoky finish. The thick-skinned wine grape produces a bold red wine with rich notes of plum and cocoa, and is packed with resveratrol, making it a good choice to boost your immune system. 

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is a thin-skinned grape with particularly high levels of resveratrol. This fruity, light-bodied, easy-drinking red has been linked to heart health and may help boost your immune system.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the world’s most widely recognised red wine grape varieties. This highly adaptable grape produces a full-bodied red wine with high tannins, and notes of dark fruit and baking spices.

It is packed with high levels of antioxidants that enhance immunity and help to protect cells against free radicals.


Nebbiolo is an Italian red wine from the Piedmont region that contains high levels of polyphenols like procyanidin. This varietal also contains melatonin, which helps to set the body’s circadian rhythm and may help with relaxation.

Petite Syrah

Also known as Durif, Petite Syrah is a full-bodied wine with rich flavours of blueberry, chocolate, plums, and black pepper, and notably high tannins. Due to its high levels of antioxidants like resveratrol, this varietal has demonstrated cardiovascular and metabolic benefits.

Despite its popularity, Petite Syrah is a relatively rare grape grown mainly in California.


Tannat is a red wine grape historically grown in south-west France. It is a full-bodied, tannin-rich wine jam-packed with antioxidants, making it one of the healthiest red wines out there. It is also one of the most prominent grapes in Uruguay, where it is considered the national grape.