Come midnight on the 31st, most people will have sparkling wine in their raised glasses. But if we’re ringing in the New Year with a clean, healthy slate, is this carbonated beverage the way to go? We popped the cork to see if champagne has any advantages over other alcoholic beverages. (And, gasp! It does.)

Poppin Bottles— The Need-to-Know

First off, let’s get the terminology straight. Champagne is sparkling wine that comes from the Champagne region of northeastern France. Technically, if the bottle is not from that region, it’s sparkling wine — not champagne. We’ll use both terms synonymously to avoid boring word repetition. (Wine enthusiasts, we apologize.) There are some benefits to popping open bubbly over other drinks on New Years Eve. In terms of calories, champagne’s got other wines beat. Four ounces of champagne is roughly 90 calories, while the same amount of red wine and sweet wine is 100 calories. Serving sizes for champagne are generally smaller than other alcoholic beverages too, keeping the calorie count even lower. The bubbles may make people drink slower or feel more full as well, though there’s no hard-proof science to back that up. Sparkling wine may have some additional health benefits, too. One study found that the polyphenols found in red wine can also be found in champagneModerate Champagne consumption promotes an acute improvement in acute endothelial-independent vascular function in healthy human volunteers. Vauzour, D., Housman, E.J., George, T.W., et al. Molecular Nutrition Group, School of Chemistry, Food and Pharmacy, University of Reading, Reading, UK. British Journal of Nutrition, 2010 Apr;103(8):1168-78. doi: 10.1017/S0007114509992959. Epub 2009 Nov 30.Cardioprotection of red wine: role of polyphenolic antioxidants. Das, D.K., Sato, M., Ray, P.S., et al. University of Connecticut School of Medicine, Farmington, CT. Drugs Under Experiemental and Clinical Research, 1999;25(2-3):115-20. .These antioxidants reduce the damage free radicals can do to the body, possibly helping lower blood pressure and prevent heart problemsRole of oxidative stress in cardiovascular diseases. Dhalla, NS., Temsah, R., Netticadan, T. Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, St Boniface General Hospital Research Centre and Department of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada. Journal of Hypertension 2000 June; 18(6):655-73. . Cheers to that. But before we toast to good health, there can be some bubbly downfalls. Scientists still aren’t sure what’s to blame for the headaches champagne and other wines often cause: Some point to the other compounds found in wine (such as histamines and tannins), while others believe it’s simply because the carbonation carries the alcohol faster to the bloodstreamWine and headache. Jarisch, R., Wantke, F. Dermatologic and Pediatric Allergy Clinic, Vienna, Austria. International Archives of Allergy and Immunology, 1996 May;110(1):7-12.. (It’s probably a myth that the sulfate in wine is the culprit.) Another downside to downing champagne is its high acidity, which can cause teeth problemsDental erosion and severe tooth decay related to soft drinks: a case report and literature review. Cheng, R., Yang, H., Shao, M.Y., et al.Department of Operative Dentistry and Endodontics, West China College of Stomatology, Sichuan University, China. Journal of Zheijang University, 2009 May;10(5):395-9. doi: 10.1631/jzus.B0820245..

Pop It Like It’s Hot — Your Action Plan

Alcohol can have some legitimate health benefits, as long as we drink responsibly. If sparkling wine is making a special appearance at your New Year’s Eve shindig (whether André or something a little um, classier), here are some tips to ring in 2013 with good health on your side.

  • Choose wisely. Types of sparkling come in a range of sweetness and sugar content. Brut Natural and Extra Brut are the least sweet, followed by Brut, Extra Dry (or Extra Sec), Sec, Demi-Sec, and Doux (which has the most sugar). For something a little less sweet but still tasty, go with any of the brut varieties.
  • Use a flute. These 4- to 6-ounce glasses are automatic portion controllers, so make use of it and fill it up just once. (Okay, or twice — it’s New Years!)
  • Snack with it. A lot of January 1st hangovers come from drinking too much and eating too little. Even if it’s late, make sure to munch on a healthy holiday snacks while you’re drinking, and be sure to enjoy a full meal before starting the party to avoid all that alcohol absorbing at a speedy rate.
  • Go one for one. For every drink of alcohol, make sure to have a glass of water. This will help prevent dehydration and the dreaded A.M. headacheRestoration of fluid balance after exercise-induced dehydration: effects of alcohol consumption. Shirreffs, S.M., Maughan, R.J. University Medical School, Foresterhill, Aberdeen, United Kingdom. Journal of Applied Physiology, 1997 Oct;83(4):1152-8.Restoration of fluid balance after exercise-induced dehydration: effects of alcohol consumption. A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia. Last reviewed: May 29, 2011.
  • Cork it safely. Nobody wants a black eye to start offthe New Year. To safely open the bottle, never use a corkscrew and never shake the bottle! Make sure the bottle is chilled to avoid excess pressure build up. With a towel over the top of the bottle, tilt at 45 degrees, hold the cork firmly, and twist the bottle until you hear a faint pop. Happy New Year!