For healthy wine consumption, look to the grape
- Petite sirah
Certain red wine grape varietals deliver antioxidants that are linked to disease prevention
Written By Lauren Glendenning
Brought to you by Base Came Liquors
If you want to live a long life, sure you should exercise and not overeat, but you should also enjoy a glass of wine or two each night.
That’s according to research on people who live in Blue Zones, geographic areas whose residents have the highest life expectancies in the world, as reported by author Dan Buettner in “The Blue Zones,” and subsequent related books.
But why stop at just wine, when you can seek out the healthiest of wines?
Shelby Martin, the wine buyer for Base Camp Liquors in Frisco, has become a local expert on “healthy wines” because so many Summit County residents and visitors are health-conscious. She likes to point customers looking for the healthiest wines toward those that meet several criteria.
“It should be dry, meaning that the sugar from the grape has been almost completely fermented out,” she said. “It should be moderate to low in alcohol, around 12 to 13 percent, and it should have a higher quantity of polyphenol content, particularly procyanidins. Typically, the darker red wines have higher counts of these antioxidants and heart healthy compounds.”
Polyphenols are antioxidants that have been tied to the prevention of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and neurological diseases. Procyanidins are the specific polyphenols in wine that are tied to these health benefits.
One study published in the journal Neurology in 2007 showed people drinking three to four glasses of wine per day had an 80 percent decreased incidence of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease compared to those who drank less or not at all. However, the Blue Zones research suggests one glass a day for women, and two a day for men, as the recommended amount of healthy consumption.
Antioxidants in wine
Not all red wines are created equally when it comes to these antioxidants. A 2006 study published in the journal Nature found that wines from southwest France and Sardinia, an island in the Mediterranean Sea, have as much as 10 times the amount of procyanidins as wines from other regions. There are still plenty of other wines that offer these antioxidant benefits, though, Martin said.
“When looking for wines high in procyanidins and polyphenols in general, you need to look for dark, thick-skinned grapes, as these polyphenols occur the highest in this type of grape, and that means looking for darker, heavier wines,” Martin said. “My go to, with one of the highest procyanidin contents of any grape, is the Italian grape from Umbria called Sagrantino.”
Martin said this dark, tannic red wine is called the “holy wine” in Umbria, and its name in Italian comes from the word “sacro,” meaning holy, and “sagra,” meaning celebration. She said a Sagrantino contains about 4174 mg/kg of polyphenols, while cabernet sauvignon, comparatively, has roughly 2200 mg/kg.
“A close second is Tannat, which comes originally from the south of France, although Uruguay has begun producing fantastic examples of it which are usually easier on the wallet,” Martin said. “Petite sirah, usually from California, and nebbiolo — the major grape of Northern Italy and the primary grape in the revered Barolo and Barbaresco — are both good backups when you cannot find the more obscure varietals. All of these wines have far higher polyphenolic content, usually two to six times as many, as wines like pinot noir.”
Martin said that many of these varietals aren’t as “easy-drinking” as lighter and brighter wines like pinot noir. There’s a bitterness in the wine that tends to be directly connected to the levels of procyanidin in the grapes, Martin said.
“This all actually can help with the healthy implications,” she said. “Because they don’t go down as easy as a light and bright Pinot, you tend to drink a little less of them which is in keeping with the recommendations of various research centers. The healthy recommendation is one 5-ounce glass for women, and two for men, per day.”
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