It has long been realized that the healthiest wine is red because it brings to our bodies a group of organic chemicals that can serve as clot-inhibiting, bad cholesterol reducing, antioxidant-enriching properties. The 1990’s the famous 60 Minutes installment by Morley Safer introduced us to the “French Paradox.”
Paradoxically, the French people have a relatively low incidence of coronary heart disease while having a diet rich in saturated fats. Drinking red wine with meals is thought to be a preventative contributor to this paradox.
The latest studies on determining the healthiest wine have been truly amazing. The positive health effects of wine drunk in moderation are anti-atherosclerotic (anti-plaque in vessels) and antithrombotic (anti-clot formation). Red wine grapes are rich in antioxidants (natural scavengers that prevent oxidation of other molecules by capturing cell-damaging free radicals). Additionally, red grapes are rich in resveratrol, a polyphenol found in the skin and seeds of red grapes, and is considered one of the agents that can inhibit cancer-feeding blood vessels. In the process of wine making, the contact time between the liquid and grapes skins and seed during fermentation serves to extract these agents into the wine. The longer the contact, the greater are the concentrations of OPC’s – oligomeric procyanidins, another class of antioxidant bioflavanoids along with resveratrol.
“A vast body of scientific evidence over the past 20 years has repeatedly suggested that moderate wine consumption is beneficial for women,” says Karen MacNeil, author of The Wine Bible. “What’s surprising is not that a moderate amount of wine is healthful; but rather that this fantastic news has not been more widely disseminated to the public.”
Master Sommelier, Catherine Fallis, has written, “Grape tannins, a component of grape skins found in high concentrations in red wines, are commonly known as anti-oxidants which may inhibit heart problems and cancers, are antihistaminic, antiviral, and may slow the destruction of collagen in our tissues and skin. It’s easy to see why red is the healthiest wine. Caution: overindulging in wine may have health risks related to its alcohol content so check with your doctor first and always have wine with a meal.”
On her website Planet Grape she describes the benefits of the Italian grape, Sagrantino.
“One of the secrets of Sagrantino’s success, not easy to achieve when hiding in the shadows of Tuscany, is its unique health benefit. Roger Corder, author of The Red Wine Diet, observed that “the Caprai Montefalco Sagrantino Collegian [in Umbria, Italy] is not only rich and powerful, it also has one of the highest procyanidins contents I’ve ever found.” Marco Caprai explained, “With over 5 milligrams per liter of polyphenolics, Sagrantino seems to be the richest kind of grape in the world for tannins, and that plays a very important role if we want to talk about the benefits of drinking a glass of red wine daily. So many studies to uncover a cause for why red wine is the healthiest wine have focused on its phenolic constituents, particularly resveratrol and the flavonoids. As it turns out, Sagrantino, with its thick skin, is one of the richest grapes in resveratrol.”
Other grapes also have a reason to be rich in resveratrol. Cornell researcher and Professor Emeritus, Leroy Creasy, discovered that Pinot Noir grapes, grown in cool, rainy places had to fight off fungus and bacteria. The vine stress from this disease pressure is identified as a key factor in the vine’s production of high levels of resveratrol. The vines produce this antioxidant as a protective measure for the grapes. These cool climate Pinot Noir’s exist in Burgundy, Oregon, and the Sonoma Coast.
Sardinia has one of the longest-lived populations (number of men over 100 years old) and its Cannonau (Grenache) grape grown in Sardinia delivers on high quantities of resveratrol. Sardinia was studied as one of the 5 Blue Zones of the world, by National Geographic. These Blue Zones have populations with exceptional lifespans. The people of Sardinia drink the local wines daily, exercise strenuously, and eat a Mediterranean diet.
The long-living people of Gers in southwest, Midi-Pyrenees, France enjoy drinking their local Madiran wine. This wine is composed principally of the Tannat grape, one very high in antioxidants. The Tannat grape also grows in the calcium – rich elevated areas of Uruguay.
Darkly pigmented fruits like blueberries, blackcurrants, and Red Delicious apples have high levels of OPC’s, an encouraging note for non-drinkers. As our Prime Magazine nutritional consultant, Jeannie Varney, stated in her recent article, “This Nightly Ritual – Friend or Foe”, “For those that don’t drink, there’s no reason to start. Any health benefit a little alcohol may provide can be achieved from regular exercise, a nutritious diet, not smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight.”
For those of us who drink wine in moderation (1 standard 5 oz. serving per day), it is wise to seek those wines that are both deliciously enjoyable and rich in antioxidants and the healthiest wine is red! Remember, it is always sensible to drink wine with food, it helps manage the astringency of the wine’s tannins and moderates the alcohol effects.
“A little wine is bound to be healthy…good for the heart and soul,”
says Kathryn Waldrep, MD, well-known Dallas physician and Prime Magazine contributing OB/GYN.
How do the red wines of the world rank in delivering antioxidant benefits?
Here is our top list from the latest research:
1. Sagrantino of Umbria, Italy
2. Cannonau (Grenache) of Sardinia
3. Tannat of Madiran (also grown in Uruguay and California)
4. Pinot Noir’s of Burgundy, Oregon and the Sonoma Coast
Recommendations for the Healthiest Wine
Umbria, Italy $34.99; Wine Enthusiast 90 Points
Umbria, Italy $48.99; Wine Enthusiast 93 Points
Sardinia, Italy $14.99; Robert Parker 91 Points
Canelones, Uruguay $64.99; Tasting Panel 92 Points
Burgundy, France $226.99; Robert Parker 93 Points
Oregon, USA Pinot Noir $22.99; Wine Enthusiast 90 points
California, USA Pinot Noir $41.99; Wine Enthusiast 93 points