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Health Q & A: Wine and Heartburn

Tina Benitez
Posted: October 15, 2008

Q: I love a glass of wine with dinner, but I have problems with acid reflux. What type of wines have a lower acidic content?
—Glenda Price, Reno, N.V.

A: Steven Kolpan, professor and chair of wine studies at The Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, N.Y., and co-author of the new book, WineWise, answers:

Medical researchers differ about the cause of acid reflux: Some say that any alcohol will assist acid reflux, a form of chronic heartburn that occurs when stomach acids enter the esophagus. Other researchers have pointed out that wine, consumed in moderation, as part of a healthy diet, does not—in and of itself—cause heartburn.

The plain truth is, all wines contain acid, and there is no [single] wine that will work for all wine lovers who suffer from acid reflux. As to what low-acid wines you should drink or even if you should drink any wine, please consult a health professional.

But to answer your question [about which wines are lower in acid], when it comes to well-made wines, the following facts are true: red wines from warmer climates that are high in tannins and alcohol will often be be relatively low in acidity (Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah/Shiraz, Merlot, Zinfandel, Grenache, Malbec). White wines can have searing acidity, but those that undergo malolactic fermentation (rich, buttery, oaky Chardonnays, for example) contain less obvious harsh fruit acids (malic and tartaric), and more smooth acid (lactic acid—found in dairy products). White wines that normally exhibit low acidity, often without the use of oak and/or malolactic fermentation, include Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Viognier and Torrontes (from Argentina). Above all, remember to relax when you enjoy a glass of wine, as stress can be a serious trigger for acid reflux.

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