Archive for category Wine and health

Resveratrol May Improve Quality of Life

A recent study of resveratrol found that the compount kept mice healthier as they aged.

The chemical is a natural compound found in grape skins and red wine and provide cardiovascular benefits, better motor coordination, reduced cataracts, greater bone density and better kidney function.

“From a health point of view, the quality of life of these mice at the end of their days is much better,” said Rafael de Cabo of the National Institute on Aging.

It’s important to note that the length of life was not increased, only the quality of life. De Cabo also cautions that the amount of resveratrol used in the study is unobtainable through normal eating and drinking habits.

(Source: Wine Spectator, Sept. 30, 2008.)

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Sulfites in Wine

“Sulfites” are really sulfer dioxide which occurs naturally (in small quantities) in many fruits and vegatables, including wine grapes. Some foods contain a lot of sulfites; for example, two ounces of dried apricots contain many times more sulfites than a glass of wine.

Winemakers add sulfer dioxide to most wines to protect the wine from bacteria and to add structure to the wine to preserve its tastes and aromas. Winemakers carefully monitor sulfite levels in their wines during the winemaking process.

Although some people feel the the sulfites in red wine give them a headache, it’s important to note that white wines contain much more sulfites than red wines. Sweet white wines contain the most sulfites followed by dry white wines and then red wines. If people find red wine gives them a headache and white wine doesn’t, then it’s probably not sulfites causing the headache. (It may be tannins in the wine; some people may be sensitive or allergic to tannins.)

US wines labelled “organic” cannot have sulfites added. Note that most US organic wines will not last very long once opened (for some, only a few hours!). Also keep in mind that wines labelled “organic” from other countries may or may not have sulfites added. Laws governing food labels such as “organic” vary dramatically from country to country.

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Wine Tannins

If you’re new to wine, you may have heard the term “tannin” but not know what it means. Even experienced wine drinkers can be confused about tannins in wine.

White wine has essentially no tannins (at least, not from the grapes). Tannins in red wine come from the skins, seeds and stems that are in contact with the juice before fermentation. Additional tannins may be introduced into wine that is aged in oak barrels. Tannins give red wine structure that enhances the taste in your mouth and gives the wine body and an ability to age.

Different red wines have different amounts of tannins. For example, Cabernet Sauvignon often has a lot of tannin while Beaujolais wines are very light in tannins.

Tannins have an astringent quality often described as similar to the feeling that strong black tea leaves in your mouth. Some describe the feeling as drying. Very strong tannings may make your mouth feel as if it’s drying out.

Tannins in the best wines are balanced by acid. While tannins give a drying sensation, acids in wine make your mouth water. A well balanced wine will provide just the right amount of tannins to balance the acids, and vice-versa. This will provide a pleasant, long-lasting finish to the wine.

Wines with strong tannins hold up well to strong foods. Grilled meats and game pair well with tannic wines so that one doesn’t overpower the other. Although some people love the feeling of strong tannins in their mouth, others prefer to drink tannic wines with meals.

You can find wine with a lot of tannins from just about everywhere but particularly from Bordeaux, France, Piedmont, Italy and many Spanish wines made in the traditional style. If you want to avoid strong tannins in red wines, go with Pinot Noir (e.g., Burgundy or Oregon) and other lighter-bodied wines made from Gamay, Cabernet Franc, or light-bodied blended wines (like Valpolicella from Italy or many blends from California).

Whether you love tannins or not, they are an important part of the wine experience. Next time you feel a drying sensation in your mouth after sipping red wine, you’ll know those are the tannins at work.

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