This section is from the book "A Treatise On Therapeutics, And Pharmacology Or Materia Medica Vol1", by George B. Wood. Also available from Amazon: Part 1 and Part 2.
The effects of wine, as a mere alcoholic liquor, have been already sufficiently described; but there are certain peculiarities in its operation which demand notice. These result either from other ingredients, or from the peculiar state in which alcohol exists in the fermented liquors. Probably both these causes have some influence. It was at one time supposed that alcohol might not pre-exist in the fermented liquors, but result from the distillatory process. This, however, has been fully disproved; as Brande obtained it from wines without distilling them. There can, however, be little doubt that its influence on the system is modified by the state of association in which it exists in the fermented liquors. Wine is much less intoxicating, in proportion to the alcohol it contains, than ardent spirit; and the lighter wines much less, in the same relation, than the stronger, to which brandy has been added. Madeira has rather less than half the proportion of alcohol contained in brandy, and claret, according to Christison, about half as much as madeira; yet every one knows that two glasses of madeira are less intoxicating than one of brandy; and two of claret less so than one of madeira. It would seem, therefore, that distillation unsettles some association of the alcohol which has a strong influence in modifying its intoxicating power. Wine, moreover, operates more slowly as a cerebral stimulant than ardent spirit, and maintains its action longer; in other words, it is less diffusible and more tonic; and the same may be said of the lighter wines in relation to the stronger. The probability is, that the proper alcohol of the fermented liquors is capable of a more ready digestion and assimilation than that which has been distilled; and that, therefore, while it stimulates the brain less, it has greater efficacy in increasing and enriching the blood, and in promoting nutrition. The practical application of this fact, supposing it to be a fact, will be seen directly.
In relation to the several wines, the lighter kinds are more diuretic, and more disposed to be laxative than the stronger; and the astringent wines are more apt to produce costiveness than those not astringent, unless the tannic acid is associated with enough saline matter to counteract its effects. Thus, port wine, which is highly astringent, and not very acidulous, not unfrequently disposes to constipation, while claret, though it also contains tannic acid, is yet rather laxative than otherwise, probably through its bitartrate of potassa. Burgundy has been said also to be disposed to constipate in consequence of its astringency; but I have not found it so in practice. The sparkling wines are thought to be much more rapidly and powerfully intoxicating than the still wines of the same strength; carbonic acid being supposed to favour their influence upon the brain. But I am inclined to think that this difference has been over estimated. Nothing is more true than that persons drinking champagne are vastly more apt to become excited than by the still wines of much greater strength; but, with careful observation, I think it will be found that this results much more from the quantity taken, and the rapidity with which, from its agreeable flavour, it is usually taken, than from the mere difference in quality. Yet I do not altogether deny that the sparkling wines are rendered more rapidly intoxicating by their carbonic acid. They are at first also more acceptable to the stomach; but, in their secondary operation, are very apt to discompose it, and to occasion headache, nausea, and other unpleasant sensations. This may in part be owing to the saccharine matter which accompanies them, and has a tendency to produce acidity of stomach; an objection to which sweet wines in general are liable.
Wines used habitually in excess are much more apt to produce gout, and uric acid lithiasis, than either delirium tremens, or chronic disease of the liver. The reason probably is, that, by stimulating less, and favouring the blood-making processes, either directly or indirectly, more than ardent spirit, they are more apt to induce the plethoric condition of the blood which favours these affections. Their injurious influence is very much diminished by vigorous exercise; and the resolute wine-drinker, if he have any regard for his health, should sedulously avoid a sedentary life.