Good news for wine lovers all around the world: researchers have finally confirmed that some wines out there are actually good for our health - if drunk in moderation, of course. Most of you will probably shrug and say that this doesn't exactly qualify as news, since we all know wine's been around for millennia, and there was never a shortage of praise for its supposed invigorating, life-prolonging effects. We are, of course, talking about moderate wine consumption here, as excesses have never done anyone any good. However, the good news I was mentioning in the beginning comes with a twist: wine is finally acknowledged as a scientifically-proven health booster. However, this generous label doesn't apply to all types of wine indiscriminately. As a result, experts say know your wines before getting down to the pleasant side that is the actual drinking.
What sets white and red apart except color?
Few of us are aware of the one basic difference between white and red wine, which comes from the way in which the skin of the grape is used during the production process. When red wine is made, the skins are crushed alongside the pulp, while white wine is produced by quickly separating the pulp and the skin. The chemical compounds in grape skin and seeds (called polyphenols and procyanidins) act as natural antioxidants that protect cell membranes, help lower blood pressure and cholesterol. You can see why red wine - which, as mentioned before, still contains the fruit pulp, is the healthier of the two, as long as we know which red wine to choose. If we make the wrong choice, there's a good chance that the wine will have no beneficial effects whatsoever - on the contrary.
So, which reds to chose? Professor Roger Corder - a heart disease researcher at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry - presents a few of his suggestions and recommendations. At the top of his list are wines that originate from the Nuoro province in Sardinia, Italy, where the Cannonau grapes are produced, and from the Madiran region in South West France. The wines produced in these two areas were proven to contain up to ten times more beneficial compounds than the same varieties of wines produced in countries like Australia, South Africa and the States.
"It's no wonder that the Madiran area has double the French national average of men aged 90, and this is despite regularly eating foods high in saturated fat", Prof Corder explains, adding that one small glass of wine from the Madiran region is healthier than two bottles of most Australian-made wine. Corder's list of healthy reds also includes Cabernet Sauvignon and all wines rich in Nebbiolo grapes. Cabernet Sauvignon is also said to be better than Shiraz or Merlot, and the Chilean and Argentinean Cabernets are by far the finest choice. Pinot Noir is generally deemed a poor choice.
Don't ignore the whites
Despite the fact that white wine doesn't contain the healthy skin of the grapes, it's not wise to dismiss it as unhealthy. Keep in mind that there are other types of beneficial substances (such as polyphenols) that are contained in the pulp of the grape and which help lower the "bad" cholesterol. Also, white wine is rich in both tyrosol and caffeic acid, two chemicals that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that help fight osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis. The best whites come from the Friuli Venezia region in Italy and include the Tocai and Verduzzo brands. Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are also good choices, but watch out for the Reisling and Pinot Grigio, as they are sweeter and contain calories.