Wine Words: Resveratrol, Red Wine, and The Health Benefits Debate

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Resveratrol is a wine word –- a somewhat controversial word and the subject of major wine health benefits studies.

Do you know what resveratrol is? And what is your view on the health benefits?

Resveratrol is a naturally occurring phenolic compound found in some plants including wine-grapes. It is considered a natural anti-microbial and antioxidant that helps the plants protect themselves from rough / unfriendly environmental conditions such as fungal / microbial attack.

In grapes resveratrol is found in the skins of grapes., which is why red wines (fermented on their skins) are considered to have higher amounts of resveratrol than white wines (most fermented off the skins).

While research is ongoing and results are far from definitive, resveratrol is considered to to convey certain health benefits. Its antioxidant properties are suggested to reduce the risk of cholesterol formation, coronary heart disease and blood clotting, through the activation of certain cellular proteins.

To date most of the research has been laboratory based and not sufficiently tested on humans to be conclusive. In March 2013 a new study at the Harvard Medical School, found that resveratrol in wine did indeed convey health benefits.

However, it needs to be noted, that there are numerous vine growing and winemaking actors that influence the amount of resveratrol in grapes and in the finished wine. Different varieties (and even different clones) start out with different amounts of resveratrol. Additionally certain winemaking practices such as fining and filtration can reduce the amount of resveratrol in a finished wine.

(Image: Underlying image by Sadovnikova Olga/Shutterstock)

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Mary Gorman-McAdams, MW (Master of Wine), is a New York based wine educator, freelance writer and consultant. In 2012 she was honored as a Dame Chevalier de L'Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne.

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