Why does red wine make you feel warm in freezing weather?

The view from The Standard, NYC

The view from The Standard, NYC

I will never again complain about the cold weather in Britain – not after spending three days in New York. Although there was no dramatic blizzard, the temperature yesterday dipped below -20 degrees with wind factor. It is so cold that it actually hurts to be outdoors for more than twenty seconds.

You can therefore imagine that New Yorkers look to safeguard their body temperatures however they can. This may come in the form of layering up, thick down jackets, or a warming drink.

Over the past few days I’ve observed that the ‘warming drink’ of choice for most is… (drumroll)… red wine.

It got me thinking – are New Yorkers just serial boozers, or does red wine actually warm you up? Is it a psychological or physiological reaction? Does it matter which grape variety the wine is made from?


Armed with an arsenal of questions, I researched the topic and have come to the following conclusions:

  • The reason you feel warm is because alcohol causes the blood vessels in your skin to dilate. This increases the volume of blood to the skin’s surface, where our heat sensors are located, giving us that fuzzy warm feeling.
  • However, alcohol actually reduces the body’s core temperature. So while you feel warmer, in theory your body is becoming colder!
  • Some argue that the tannins and histamines in wine grapes cause this reaction, but the jury is out on that one. The more conventional view is that red wine is not the only drink that makes you feel warm – just look at the Russians in Siberia raising their temperatures with shots of vodka.

So it seems like if you want to feel warmer, alcohol is the way to go, but be aware of the associated health risks – particularly in very cold weather.

I think the best solution is to drink red wine while wearing a very warm jacket. So I ordered this.


Don’t forget to download Grappled, the app that helps you wine while you dine. It is available for free (yay!) on Android and iOS devices. Simply head over to your app store or visit www.grappledapp.com to download it.



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