It was great news for wine fans when we found out that their favourite drink has some beneficial compounds in. Even committed white drinkers were persuaded to try reds as there are more health benefits to be had there. Not all reds are the same, though, with some having more of the good stuff than others.

Of course, all the polyphenols in the world won’t help you if you drink too much, but a moderate intake of some reds has a measurably positive effect on health. Moderate drinkers have fewer heart attacks, lower rates of diabetes and even live longer – it’s not an old wives’ tale, it’s scientific fact after hundreds of studies.

What are the healthy reds, then?

When you’re looking for healthy reds, you should look for the drier varieties, as well as the ones that are lower in alcohol – 12.5% ABV or lower – and wines with higher levels of polyphenols, especially procyanidins.

Pro-what, now?

When it comes to wine, if it’s not water and it’s not alcohol either, there’s a good chance it’s a polyphenol – aromas, resveratrol, color and around 5,000 other compounds that the labcoats have isolated. The biggest group of polyphenols is the procyanidins, which prevent cholesterol plaques from forming on blood vessel walls – hence the good effect on heart health.

Which wines have the most polyphenols?

Merlot, Tannat, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sagrantino, as well as Marselan and Durif. Polyphenols are found mostly in the grape skins and seeds, so reds and rosés have higher levels than whites.

Can you tell by taste alone?

Yes. High-polyphenol wines will have stronger fruit flavors, more acidity and a noticeably tannic finish. Many will also be very dark, so watch out for ones that you can’t see through. Bitter is better, too.

The bitterness in wine shows that there’s a lot of procyanidin, so even if you’re not a fan, try to bring some bitterness into your life.

Look for challenging wines

With some wines, you find they just magically slip down your throat and sometimes you don’t really notice. With others, you find you can only take small sips – you like it, but it’s a sipper, not a quaffer. This is good, because you’ll drink a lot less but still feel like you’ve had an experience.