This section is from the book "Practical Dietetics With Special Reference To Diet In Disease", by William Gilman Thompson. Also available from Amazon: Practical Dietetics with Special Reference to Diet in Disease.
The following classification of wines, with the examples and comments, is largely derived from Chambers, and will be found convenient and practical from a purely dietetic standpoint.
Wines may be classed as -
I. Strong Dry Wines. II. Strong Sweet Wines. III. Aromatic Wines. IV. Acid Wines. V. Sparkling Wines. VI. Perfect Wines. VII. Rough or Astringent Wines.
Strong Dry Wines are those in which the sugar of the expressed grape juice or "must" has fermented into alcohol, either by process of time or by artificial means. When left to itself, this alcoholic fermentation is extremely slow, occupying many years before its completion, but the natural process is better than any artificial one yet discovered. These wines also contain considerable alcohol, often 17 or 18 per cent, which makes them less available for general dietetic uses than weaker wines. Examples are strong, dry old sherry, port, Madeira, and Johannisberg, (The name " sherry" is often used as a generic term for white wines grown in Spain).
These wines, especially sherry, are sometimes used for stimulation in fevers or other diseases, in lieu of spirits, where the taste of the latter is strongly disliked. If drunk too freely they congest the stomach, and have the evil effects of strong spirits or of strong alcohol in general. (See Alcohol, Evil Effects.) They often contain some sugar, and taken with meals they may interfere with digestion, causing acetic fermentation, and especially disturbing the digestion of fats.
Port is a wine in which the original fermentation has been arrested by the addition of alcohol, and it has a proverbially bad reputation for precipitating attacks of gout. In England, where much more is consumed than in the United States, it is even held responsible for causing the disease in some instances.
It is well known that port improves more by long rest in the bottle than does any other wine. It is a useful temporary tonic, and, like claret, its astringency makes it serviceable in diarrhoeal diseases, but many persons, especially in this country, find it altogether too heavy for daily use. This is not altogether due to its high percentage of alcohol, for a greater quantity of strong spirits will sometimes be found to do less damage. It is a poor wine for dyspeptics, and should be proscribed in all bilious states, lithiasis, cases with tendency to gallstone formation, gravel, gout, and rheumatism. It has been largely replaced by claret of late years as a dinner wine.
Port as well as Burgundy is sometimes spiced or " mulled," and prescribed diluted, as a tonic for elderly people. Taken before retiring, with a biscuit, or mixed with a light gruel, it may promote their sleep.
Strong Sweet Wines are those which contain, either natural or artificially added, fruit sugar in sufficient quantity to exercise a preservative influence, and further fermentation is checked by boiled grape juice. Examples are Tokay, Malaga, sweet sherry, sweet champagne, Malmsey, Madeira, Lachrymae Christi, and other vins de luxe. They are much too sweet to be drunk in quantity, but this quality is sometimes made to disguise the bitterness of other substances, as when Tokay is added to coca extract to make "wine of coca." If long kept, the sweetness is reduced but the peculiar agreeable flavour remains. Alcohol may be added to further insure preservation and increase the strength of the wine, and sweet port is sometimes made in this manner.
The sweet heavy wines, such as sweet port, sherry, and Madeira, contain about 19 to 22.5 per cent of alcohol, 3.5 to 6 per cent of sugar, and about 0.50 per cent of acid. Malaga and Tokay contain more sugar and less alcohol.
The chief use of these wines is not for tonic or dietetic purposes, but for their agreeable flavour. They are better taken between meals, if at all, both because the delicacy of their flavour is more appreciated when the mouth is free from other tastes and because their sweetness may interfere with digestion. Like all sweet wines, they must be forbidden to the gouty, rheumatic, bilious, lithaemic, and dyspeptic.