Science Reveals Red Wine Makes Us Feel Good—Who Knew?!

Researchers in Portugal have confirmed what humankind has intuitively known for thousands of years—drinking red wine makes us feel amazing! 

A study published in 2021 by PLOS One entitled “The Power of Dionysus—Effects of red wine on consciousness in a naturalistic setting” aims to consider how red wine affects our state of mind in a ‘real world’ setting—like a wine bar—as opposed to a laboratory. Led by Rui Miguel Costa, the researchers from the Lisbon Institute of Applied Psychology followed one hundred participants. Each consumed two glasses of red wine either alone, in a duo, or in a group. 

The wine itself was the 2018 Quinta da Lapa Reserve Syrah—described as “full bodied” and “silky”. Participants were asked to complete a questionnaire before and after consumption in order to measure changes in consciousness. Regardless of whether participants drank alone, with a buddy, or in a group setting, the results demonstrated that “red wine increased pleasure and arousal, decreased the awareness of time, slowed the subjective passage of time, increased the attentional focus on the present moment… turned imagination more vivid, and made the environment become more fascinating.” Moreover, the study concluded that participants experienced “increased insightfulness and originality of thoughts, increased sensations of oneness with the environment, spiritual feelings, all-encompassing love, and profound peace.” Now there’s an endorsement if ever we've heard one!

Due to the lack of a control group, the study isn’t exactly bursting with scientific rigour.  The results aren’t ground-breaking or surprising. Nevertheless, it’s nice to see scientists getting up to a bit of fun. Costa’s study confirms the essence of what the ancient Greeks proclaimed some two thousand years ago. Homer, considered one of the greatest thinkers of all time, wrote “wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile.” American founding father, Benjamin Franklin, echoed these sentiments, declaring, “wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance.” 

So, it’s no secret really—yes—wine makes us feel good!

Researchers admitted the study had limitations. Is there something fundamentally unique about red wine—or would a martini elicit the same degree of joy? Is it the beverage itself that induces a state of bliss, or is it the convivial atmosphere of the wine bar? Perhaps a mystical balance of the two? Costa’s team acknowledges further research is needed to better understand these questions. 

Previous studies have established that a wine-tasting experience can be greatly altered by contextual factors. Details such as ambiance, lighting, background music, type of wine glass used, the richness of a wine’s colour, the weight of a wine bottle, and whether a wine is corked or not, can all affect a consumer’s enjoyment. We know that drinking wine is a multi-sensory and deeply psychological experience. We for sure are keen to see what future research will reveal both about wine and about ourselves.   

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