By Giovanni Angelini
WINE, GLORIOUS RED WINES
and the benefits of resveratrol
In vino veritas (in wine, there is truth)… For centuries, wine has been at the centre of social gatherings and special occasions, connecting cultures and countries, and evolving to become a much-loved part of our daily lives. (As an information, the earliest evidence of grape fermentation was found in ancient China c. 7000 BC, in Persia from 5000 BC, and Sicily from 4000 BC).
A symbol of serene, verdant landscapes and the good life, the wine industry is also a vast, complex and dynamic business sector, with more than 64,000 proud producers in over 100 countries around the world – and an increasingly savvy and demanding consumer base.
Conversations about wine are generally full of jargon and centre on the producers, vineyards, grape type, terroir, tannins, vintage, alcohol content, temperature, food pairing, ratings, etc. And it takes a lot of knowledge to sound like an expert.
While many people indulge in wine to enjoy its calming, intoxicating effects, there is evidence suggesting that it is good for one’s health too.
Studies have shown that consuming a moderate amount of red wine (which has an alcohol content of 11%-16%) a few times per week, or daily, can help to prevent several diseases, including heart problems.
This brings to mind the old Italian proverb – “Red wine makes good blood” – and certainly gives credence to the widely held belief that a glass of red wine with loved ones or friends after a hard day’s work is a great way to beat back stress.
That said, it’s important to note that a moderate amount of wine is defined as one or one-and-a-half glasses of 5 oz servings a few times per week (or daily, as long you enjoy your wine with food). When following these measures, make sure to use a standard wine glass and not a goblet. Otherwise, the 5 oz serving will look tiny; and we all know how important it is to please the eyes as well as olfactory senses and taste buds.
Red wines contain powerful plant compounds and antioxidants called polyphenols. In some cases, these may help to protect the lining of the blood vessels of the heart. One polyphenol in particular called resveratrol has received a lot of attention lately for its health and cardiovascular benefits.
Resveratrol is said to help reduce blood pressure, prevent blood clots, regulate blood sugar, and prevent damage to blood vessels, amongst other benefits. With this in mind, it’s no wonder that many people in Italy and France (two of the largest producers and consumers of quality wines in the world) strongly believe that regular, moderate consumption of wine can increase one’s lifespan.
The resveratrol in red wine comes from the skin of grapes used to make it, and the thickness of the skin varies from grape-to-grape. Malbeck grapes have the thickest skins of all wine grape varieties, while Pinot Noir appears to be the healthiest choice among red wines.
While most red wines are generally considered healthier than whites, Pinot Noir is top of its class as it contains a high level of resveratrol. It is produced differently from other red wines, with lower sugar content, fewer calories, reasonably low tannins, and a low amount of sulfites (a preservative generally blamed for causing headaches). Also, Pinot Noir pairs perfectly with most dishes/foods.
Red wine grapes come in numerous varieties, and the region and way in which they’re grown can have a significant impact on the finished bottled product. Some of the most popular red wine grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Syrah, Malbeck, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, plus several others.
The science of wine and winemaking is known as oenology. Different producers have different ways of preparing the vines, from bud break to the ripening of the fruit, to types of fertilizer and spray used, harvesting time, selection of grapes, maceration period, fermentation into alcohol, the ageing, and so-on.
Non-blended red wines (100% single-varietal wines) are considered the most healthy wines, while sweet wines are considered the least salutary as they contain a high volume of sugar.
Compared to blended wines, single grape products have a stronger sense of place and origin, bringing to mind their terroirs and specific mineral content with unique flavour profiles. To protect this level of purity, some ‘Old World’ wine regions have regulations that restrict blending from taking place. Burgundy is an example.
Single-varietal wine is about the expression of the variety, allowing the consumer to understand the characteristics of each type. Blended wine, on the other hand, expresses the skill of the winemaker. In some cases, blended wine may also serve as something akin to an insurance policy for the producer.
For those who choose to drink alcoholic beverages, red wine is a better choice than hard liquor thanks to its health-enhancing benefits. Statistics show that, despite some scepticism surrounding the health claims from producers, red wines (single-varietals in particular) have become increasingly popular among health-conscious consumers. And as for hotels, selling and serving wines can be very profitable.
Too much of a good thing
While drinking wine certainly is pleasurable, with health benefits when enjoyed in moderation, don’t forget that drinking too much alcohol can have the opposite effect – often leading to high blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat.
When it comes to health, one must practice balance and avoid extremes, and non-drinkers should not start drinking simply because they think alcohol might help.
Of course, eating red grapes or drinking red grape juice might be a way to get resveratrol without drinking alcohol.
Ultimately, we all have different likes, dislikes, palates, and choices. It’s just that some choices are more fun than others.
When taking your next sip, remember that wine is all about enjoyment. Discover what you like, and celebrate that. (And in moderation, of course).
“I’ve taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me” – Winston Churchill.