Study Identifies 'Best' Red Wine Grapes

Those seeking a longevity-boosting tipple should turn their attention to red wines from Sardinia and south-west France, a study by UK researchers has concluded.

Chemicals called procyanidins are responsible for red wine's well-documented heart-protecting effect, concludes the study by Dr. Roger Corder. It also adds that the traditionally made wines from these areas had more procyanidins than wines in other parts of the world.

Previous studies have revealed regular, moderate consumption of red wine is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease and lower mortality.

A class of chemicals called polyphenols, of which there are many varieties, are thought to be responsible. Using endothelial cells (cells that line the vascular system), the researchers pinpointed polyphenols called procyanidins as those that provided the most potent protective effect.

They then tested red wines from around the world to measure their levels of procyanidins, including wines from Nuoro province in Sardinia and the Gers region of the Midi-Pyrenees in south-west France, areas famous for their population's longevity.

They discovered wines from these regions had on average between two and four times the level of procyanidin compared with wines from countries including Spain, Australia, South America and the US.

Traditionally made

Professor Roger Corder, from the William Harvey Research Institute, at Queen Mary, University of London, said: "There is a 19th Century expression: 'A man is only as old as his arteries', which can be taken to mean that those with the healthiest arteries live longer.

"So it was of great interest to us when we found both in Sardinia and in south-west France that the wines made in these in areas had higher levels of procyanidins."

The researchers believe the way that wines are made is the key.

In traditional wine making, said Professor Corder, grapes have a three to four week fermentation period, allowing for full extraction of the chemical from the skin and the seed.

Modern-style wines are only fermented for a week, resulting in little or no procyanidin.

Tannat: Tough and Tannic Tonic from Uruguay

He added that the grape was also important and the tannat, cabernet sauvignon and Nebbiolo grapes made procyanidin-rich wines.

Professor Corder said: "The traditional production methods used in Sardinia and south-western France ensure that the beneficial compounds, procyanidins, are efficiently extracted.

"This may explain the strong association between consumption of traditional tannic wines with overall wellbeing, reflected in greater longevity."

Cathy Ross, cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), said: "While we have known for some time that a moderate amount of alcohol can help to reduce your risk of developing heart disease, we would not recommend anyone to start drinking. Those who do enjoy a tipple should keep within the recommended levels.

Dr. Roger Corder who had earlier written a book called, 'The Wine Diet' has written another book- 'The Red Wine Diet' which is to be released on 6th September, 2007

Tannat grape was taken to Uruguay in 1860 by a French Basque called Don Pascual Harriague. From there it found its way to Argentina. It made its presence in California in 2000 and is expected to grow in popularity due to the health benefits. The grape has done very well in South America and though the use in France has been coming down, the acreage is increasing in South America. More than a third of Grapes grown in Uruguay (36%) constitute Tannat.

The highly tannic grape is mellowed down by blending it with Merlot, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Frank although single varietal is also quite popular, especially as a Reserve wine. A Bordeaux blend using Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc with Tannat also makes delicious wine- Editor





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