Roger Corder’s The Wine Diet sounds like something wine lovers and producers everywhere could only have dreamed about: a book based on the health benefits of drinking quality red wine every day.
But his arguments are based on mounting scientific evidence linking components in red wine and other foods, including dark chocolate and berries, with heart health.
Those components are known as procyanidins, discovered after researchers recently purified the most biologically active polyphenols in red wine.
Several studies have suggested polyphenols in red wine, and more recently in dark chocolate, provided strong protection for human blood vessels, potentially even preventing arteries from becoming blocked.
Benefits are region-specific
Corder, from the respected William Harvey Research Institute in London, builds on this with new research showing regions that make wines particularly rich in procyanidins also have higher life expectancies among locals.
Wines from southwest France using the local Tannat grape variety contained some of the highest levels of procyanidins seen by researchers. The region is also well above the national average for men over the age of 75.
Crete was another area with wines particularly rich in procyanidins, due to the local Costafali grape variety. “We found people there have a diet very rich in fat, what we would never advise to people in Britain, and yet they were living longer,” Corder told BeverageDaily.com.
Marketing ticket for Old World
As the evidence stacks up, it may offer opportunities for wine firms to develop a premium, healthy wine category by deliberately producing wines to contain more procyanidins.
Madiran wine from France’s Gers region would be one place to start. “One small glass of this wine can provide more benefit than two bottles of most Australian wines,” Corder writes.
It may sound like a marketing ticket for the Old World, particularly considering France’s wine market problems, but Corder said the key to procyanidin content might lie as much with winemaking practices as where it is made.
“I’m not trying to undermine the wine industry, but it’s an endorsement for better quality products. We need wines which have the full extract of the grape skin in the wine.”
Longer fermentation times were also a key factor, he added, advising that wines left to sit with grape pips and skins for more than three weeks showed the best results.
Vineyard management important
The Wine Diet also devotes a whole section to ways winemakers may produce wines richer in procyanidins through vineyard management.
Growing vines at higher altitudes, for example, is believed to be beneficial because more powerful ultraviolet rays from the sun should stimulate the two enzymes responsible for creating procyanidins.
Sadly for wine lovers, Corder stops short of endorsing unlimited consumption, with a chapter entitled ‘Moderation is the Message’.
“There’s no point thinking this is a licence to drink a couple of litres of wine per day, because it isn’t,” he said. “We need to get people thinking in a sensible way towards healthy living.” - (Decision News Media, January 2007)