Is Wine Paleo? This is one of the most frequently asked questions that we get on the site. We’re going to touch on the origins of wine, the basic breakdown of wine, and then the do’s and don’ts of choosing wine.
The oldest known winery was found in 2011 in an Armenian cave circa 4000 B.C. This made me giggle a little because even though the timeline is not accurate, wine really was drank by cavemen. Hehe. Yea, I know, cheap shot. Anyway, they figured out that the temperature-controlled, cool, dry climate made the caves perfect wine cellars. They would smash the grapes and drain them into a vat, where they would let them ferment. Pretty close to what is still being done, just without the modern flare… which begs the question: If it is that simple to make wine, and it’s only made of grapes, is wine Paleo?
To make wine, grapes (yep, that’s Paleo) are pressed and the pulp is mixed with yeast, then allowed to ferment. I haven’t found any references to whether or not yeast is Paleo approved (as it is naturally occurring but not domesticated until about 9,000 years ago), so until I find verification that it is not, we’re going to go with yes (OK, so that’s sort of Paleo too).
The difference between white and red wines is that the skins are removed from the white wine grapes, but are allowed to ferment along with the pulp for red wines (grape pulp + skins = Paleo). So essentially, we’re looking at Paleo ingredients, which would make you think, yea, Paleo, right? Well, yes and no.
Let’s examine the basic concept of the Paleo diet – to eat a clean, non-toxic, non-processed diet. Alcohol, in any form, is none of the above. So if you really want to be a hardcore Paleo practitioner, let me cut to the chase: No, alcohol is not essential Paleo. Now, for all of you just wanting to live a clean life, but not willing to give up your social hour or weeknight wind-down, I will let you know that wine is the one of the closest things you can drink and it is our alcohol of choice. It also has some health benefits. Red wine, in particular, has antioxidants like resveratrol, which can lower bad cholesterol and prevent blood clots. So, if you are going to go with an alcoholic option, red wine si vous plait! With that said, I’ll outline some of the basics of how to choose the best option for your Paleo lifestyle.
First, you want to remember to buy organic wine. This will ensure that no chemicals came in contact with your grapes pre-harvest. Make sure that the label reads “100% Organic” to know that all of the grapes, as well as the manufacturing process, are 100% chemical free. If the bottle is labeled “Organic” or “Made with Organic Grapes”, you’ll still be ingesting some chemical leftovers. Next, you’ll want to stick to dry varieties, as we are trying to keep our sugars to a minimum.
If you’re looking for a red, we recommend (in order) zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon, sangiovese, shiraz/syrah (Angel’s favorite), merlot, and lastly pinot noir. If you’re fancying a white, start with chardonnay, sauvignon blanc (my personal favorite), champagne/sparkling wine, pinot grigio, rose. Remember, this is just a very basic chart from the driest varieties, leaving out the very sweet. We always recommend local if you can find it (support your local economy!). Most stores will have a couple of local varieties (even Publix does this).
So, what’s the verdict? Wine may not be entirely Paleo, but it isn’t entirely bad for us either. I would not recommend it for someone with autoimmune or health issues, but for those of you wanting to just eat clean and still enjoy your creature comforts, remember that with everything in life, moderation is the key.