Is Wine an Aphrodisiac? A Modern Look at Wine and Sexuality
Throughout history, wine has been shrouded in an aura of mystery and romance.
In Ancient Greece , it was considered a gift from the gods and was often used in religious ceremonies. It was believed to have medicinal properties in the Middle Ages and was used to treat everything from indigestion to the plague.
Today, wine is enjoyed by people all over the world and is widely considered to be a sophisticated beverage. But what about its reputation as an aphrodisiac? Is there any truth to the claim that wine can increase sexual desire? Or is it simply a placebo effect brought on by marketing and historical beliefs? Let’s explore our modern views on the relationship between sex and wine and whether there’s any science to back it up.
Modern Pop Culture on Wine and Sex
Every culture has its pop culture aphrodisiac. For most of us in the western world, oysters, chocolate, and red wine come to mind when we think of romance and sex.
Most people today link wine (and alcohol in general) with sex. It could be the years of advertising alcohol and romance or candle-lit dinners where a couple splits a bottle of wine.
Many modern wine brands advertise highly sexualized images of women enjoying the beverage. In TV shows like The Mindy Project or Game of Thrones women rarely are seen without wine.
Wine and Sex: Is it a Placebo?
The problem with believing that alcohol, especially red wine, is an aphrodisiac is that it can have a placebo effect. When it comes to alcohol, including wine, expecting it will make us more romantic, bubbly, or angry makes it more likely we will feel that way. As a culture, we believe a couple of glasses of wine will get us in the mood, so that’s what typically happens. If we didn’t think this, it’s less likely the wine would act as an aphrodisiac.
The typical effects of alcohol can also act as a sort of aphrodisiac. Drinking wine can lower inhibitions and make people feel more relaxed, leading to increased sexual desire. You’re also more likely to take risks if you’re drinking, which can be a negative side effect of alcohol.
Some studies show that wine could be used to boost your sex drive. The alcohol in wine affects your hypothalamus, the part of your brain responsible for basic human urges: hunger, body temperature, hormone levels, and sex drive. After a glass or two of wine, you’ll start feeling these effects.
Alcohol has a similar effect on the body as oxytocin – or the cuddle hormone. People tend not to feel anxious and are more trusting of others when given oxytocin or a glass of wine, which can lead to romance.
But the benefits of drinking red wine instead of other alcoholic beverages are even more significant. One study found that men who drank red wine had higher testosterone levels, leading to increased sexual desire. Research also shows women get a temporary boost of testosterone after drinking, which can heighten desire.
Red wine also can improve women’s sexual health. One study showed that women who regularly consumed moderate amounts of red wine had a stronger sexual desire and sexual function than women who didn’t drink.
Another study found that compounds in red wine called flavonoids can improve blood flow to the genitals, leading to increased sexual desire.
You don’t even have to drink alcohol to get turned on. According to some studies, the smell alone of wine can increase libido, with men and women having different preferences. Like how human pheromones work, scientists have found evidence that non-human smells can evoke desire, as seen with the aroma of wine.
There is a caveat to all this research: wine could have the opposite effect in the bedroom if you drink too much. So, stick to a glass or two to reap all the benefits.
Ultimately, whether wine has the power to increase sexual desire is up for debate and your body chemistry. But one thing is certain: it has been tantalizing people for centuries.
Today in Germany and France – In Germany and France, you must lock eyes when toasting someone. If you break eye contact, the superstition is that you’ll have seven years of bad sex. So, make sure to look at the person you’re saying “cheers!” to.
See also: Wine and Sex in Ancient Rome
Want to read more? Try these books!
 Testa M, Fillmore MT, Norris J, Abbey A, Curtin JJ, Leonard KE, Mariano KA, Thomas MC, Nomensen KJ, George WH, Vanzile-Tamsen C, Livingston JA, Saenz C, Buck PO, Zawacki T, Parkhill MR, Jacques AJ, Hayman LW Jr. Understanding alcohol expectancy effects: revisiting the placebo condition. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2006 Feb
 “The dark side of the ‘love hormone:’ Similarities with the effects of alcohol.” University of Birmingham. ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 May 2015.
 Sex hormones in alcohol consumption: a systematic review of evidence. Erol A, Ho AM, Winham SJ, Karpyak VM. Addict Biol. 2019 Mar, 24
 Regular moderate intake of red wine is linked to a better women’s sexual health. Mondaini N, Cai T, Gontero P, Gavazzi A, Lombardi G, Boddi V, Bartoletti R. J Sex Med. 2009 Oct
 Dietary flavonoid intake and incidence of erectile dysfunction. Cassidy A, Franz M, Rimm EB. 2016 Feb
 Human Male Sexual Response to Olfactory Stimuli. Alan R. Hirsch, M.D., F.A.C.P. March 2014.