Accelerated cognitive decline increases the risk of dementia. Slowing down the rate of cognitive decline leads to the preservation of cognitive functioning in the elderly, who can live independently for a longer time. Alcohol consumption may influence the rate of cognitive decline. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the associations between the total consumption of alcoholic beverages and different types of alcoholic beverages and cognitive decline at middle age. In 2613 men and women of the Doetinchem Cohort Study, aged 43-70 years at baseline (1995-2002), cognitive function (global cognitive function and the domains memory, speed and flexibility) was assessed twice, with a 5-year time interval. In linear regression analyses, the consumption of different types of alcoholic beverages was analysed in relation to cognitive decline, adjusting for confounders. We observed that, in women, the total consumption of alcoholic beverages was inversely associated with the decline in global cognitive function over a 5-year period (P for trend = 0·02), while no association was observed in men. Regarding the consumption of different types of alcoholic beverages in men and women together, red wine consumption was inversely associated with the decline in global cognitive function (P for trend < 0·01) as well as memory (P for trend < 0·01) and flexibility (P for trend = 0·03). Smallest declines were observed at a consumption of about 1·5 glasses of red wine per d. No other types of alcoholic beverages were associated with cognitive decline. In conclusion, only (moderate) red wine consumption was consistently associated with less strong cognitive decline. Therefore, it is most likely that non-alcoholic substances in red wine are responsible for any cognition-preserving effects.