Epidemiologic studies from numerous disparate populations reveal that individuals with the habit of daily moderate wine consumption enjoy significant reductions in all-cause and particularly cardiovascular mortality when compared with individuals who abstain or who drink alcohol to excess. Researchers are working to explain this observation in molecular and nutritional terms. Moderate ethanol intake from any type of beverage improves lipoprotein metabolism and lowers cardiovascular mortality risk. The question now is whether wine, particularly red wine with its abundant content of phenolic acids and polyphenols, confers additional health benefits. Discovering the nutritional properties of wine is a challenging task, which requires that the biological actions and bioavailability of the >200 individual phenolic compounds be documented and interpreted within the societal factors that stratify wine consumption and the myriad effects of alcohol alone. Further challenge arises because the health benefits of wine address the prevention of slowly developing diseases for which validated biomarkers are rare. Thus, although the benefits of the polyphenols from fruits and vegetables are increasingly accepted, consensus on wine is developing more slowly. Scientific research has demonstrated that the molecules present in grapes and in wine alter cellular metabolism and signaling, which is consistent mechanistically with reducing arterial disease. Future research must address specific mechanisms both of alcohol and of polyphenolic action and develop biomarkers of their role in disease prevention in individuals.