We all know that drinking wine can alter one’s mental state. New research tells us exactly how red wine affects our mood.
Investigators from the German-based Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health, the Instituto Universitario in Portugal, and elsewhere decided to explore whether moderate wine consumption results in positive changes in consciousness, the first such study of its kind.
They hypothesized that the “balanced consumption of wine” can lead to “temporary joyful transcendence of the ordinary mental state” and possibly “mystical-type states.”
They recruited more than 100 people to visit a wine bar in a tourist area in Lisbon, Portugal to drink two glasses of red wine and document the effects. The participants were mainly university students and young professionals who were “familiar” with red wine. The wine bar provided table seating for all and jazz music in the background. The participants completed questionnaires both before and immediately after consuming the wine.
The study measured six different aspects of how red wine affects our mood, using well-established scientific metrics.
The wine, chosen by the producer and two sommeliers, was a reserve Syrah, a “silky, full-bodied red” from the Lisbon region.
The researchers explained that they used red wine because it’s the most connected to the appreciation of meals and hedonism, and its taste is one of the most studied.
They also explained that the study had to occur in a wine bar, as opposed to a laboratory, because it “allows visitors not just to taste quality wine, but also to get immersed into an environment where it is possible to relax and socialize during tasting.”
And guess what? The wine “improved mood.”
Specifically, “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, decreased body awareness, slowed thought speed, turned imagination more vivid, and made the environment become more fascinating. Red wine increased insightfulness and originality of thoughts, increased sensations of oneness with the environment, spiritual feelings, all-encompassing love, and profound peace.”
Gender was not a factor, nor was whether the participant was drinking alone, with another person, or in a small group.
This peer-reviewed, heavily referenced study, entitled The power of Dionysus—Effects of red wine on consciousness in a naturalistic setting, was recently published in the venerable scientific journal PLOS One.
Okay, Now What?
I’ve read and reported on hundreds of scientific studies over the years, and I know that researchers need to test assumptions and corroborate or refute hypotheses. This applies to even the obvious ones, like studies that found people are happier on weekends when they’re not working or that high heels hurt your feet.
So what should we make of this study?
The other publications that covered it, such as Psychology Today and Wine Spectator, simply reported on it without editorializing.
I take the study seriously, but I’m a bit more cynical. Wouldn’t most people be pretty happy about receiving two free glasses of nice red wine in a pretty wine bar? And since many of the participants were tourists, wouldn’t they already be amenable to increased pleasure and a decreased awareness of time? After all, they were on VACATION.
Moreover, the study raises other questions. Would the results have been different if the participants didn’t like the wine they were drinking? Would white wine have the same effect? What about if the study wasn’t conducted in a pleasant wine bar but in a raucous sports bar? A sketchy dive bar? And how can it be that this is the first such study of its kind?
But wait! Luckily for us, the study’s authors agree that more research is needed to see if their findings on how red wine affects our mood can be replicated. They also want to test other factors, such as whether the type of music in the wine bar makes a difference.
You know what that means? They’re going to need more participants. I volunteer. Sign me up!
We hope these insights on how red wine affects our mood are illuminating – or at least a bit of fun.
What do you think of this study, and others like it? Should we conduct our own? Send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org. Always feel free to reach out to us with any questions or feedback.
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