Old World Red Wines May be Healthier
Tannins in European, Age-Worthy Reds May Add to Heart-Healthy Effects
Nov. 29, 2006 -- The same ingredient that helps red wines become better with
age may help people live longer by protecting against heart disease.
A new study shows dry red wines high in tannins, such as those made in
southwest France and in Italy, have a greater protective effect than less
tannic wines produced in other parts of the world.
Tannins are compounds extracted from the seeds, skins, and stems of grapes
that give red wines their characteristic dry, full taste. As a high-quality red
wine ages, its sharpness softens and the flavor becomes more complex.
The amount of tannin in a red wine like cabernet sauvignon varies, depending
on the winemaking methods used.
The study's researchers say their results suggest the Old World winemaking
techniques that ensure a higher amount of tannins produce wines that are
healthier for the heart and may contribute to the longer longevity seen in
regions known for producing such wines.
"The traditional production methods used in Sardinia and southwestern
France ensure that the beneficial compounds, procyanidins [tannins], are
efficiently extracted," says researcher Roger Corder of Queen Mary's
William Harvey Research Institute of the University of London, in a news
"This may explain the strong association between consumption of
traditional tannic wines with overall well-being, reflected in greater
longevity," he says.
Old World Reds Healthier?
Several studies have shown that moderate drinkers of red wine have less
heart disease than non-drinkers; and much of the heart-healthy effects of red
wine have been attributed to the antioxidant polyphenols found in the wine.
These antioxidants are thought to have beneficial effects on blood vessels and
In the study, published in Nature, researchers analyzed the
polyphenol content of several types of red wine produced in various parts of
the world and compared the wines' effects on blood vessel cells.
"We purified the most biologically active polyphenols, and identified
them as procyanidins [condensed tannins]," says Corder.
Wines richest in these tannins had the greatest protective effect on the
cells and were from regions -- Sardinia and southwest France -- that use Old
World winemaking techniques.
Further research showed these areas are also associated with lower heart
disease rates and higher longevity, he says.
The study found that wines made from the Tannat grape in southwest France
were highest in these beneficial tannins. That grape is rarely grown