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.
"Perfect" Wines are those which are classified by Chambers as having their several ingredients - " alcohol, water, sugar, ethereal flavours, fruity extractives, and acids " - commingled without giving characteristic prominence to either one. Such are many of the best clarets, but the red wines usually, from one cause or another, fall under some other class.
The best Bordeaux is fully fermented, but the commoner Burgundies and red Rhones contain "too much fruity extractive, which decomposes unless re-enforced by alcohol, and are unwholesome unless ripe when drunk " (Chambers). When a red wine is so decomposed it is unfit for consumption. Re-fermentation in it may be discovered by lightly corking a half-filled bottle, letting it stand for some hours in a warm place, and then shaking it. If carbonic acid is present, it will rise in bubbles and expel the cork. Wine of this sort deranges digestion, causing acid eructations and gastric discomfort.
Prime Burgundies, on the contrary, like Chambertin, have more "body," and, because they contain a larger percentage of alcohol, do not ferment. Moleschott gives the average volumetric percentage of alcohol in red wines as follows: Clarets or red Bordeaux, 10.61; red Rhone, 10.39; red Burgundy, 11.19.
Prime clarets, Bordeaux, and Burgundies are useful tonics for invalids, to be given in moderation with meals, or in some cases with a biscuit or light sandwich as a luncheon between meals. They contain little or no sugar, and are of excellent service in convalescence from protracted fevers, such as typhoid, or from the grippe, etc. The lighter forms, if of good quality, are the best form of wine for daily consumption by brain workers or those whose sedentary habits or whose advanced age make desirable a slight stimulus to appetite and digestion. Claret is almost the only wine which it is at all safe to allow gouty or diabetic patients.
Beaujolais is intermediate in effect between claret and Burgundy.
In diarrhoea, the red wines, according to Lichtenstern, have a twofold beneficial action: first, by depressing exalted reflex excitability in visceral nerves, and, secondly, by controlling intestinal putrefaction. Those which contain considerable tannin are also mildly astringent.