Raise your glass and join us in a to toast to the healthiest red wines in the world. Our philosophy here at Wanderlust Wine has always been to import organic, biodynamic or organically farmed wines and this year we decided to mark consumers’ increasing demand for healthier alternatives, and the growing trend of conscious drinking, by bringing you wines in this category from France and Italy that until now have not been available in the UK.
1 – What is considered ‘healthy’ about red wine?
Wines with the highest levels of health properties are from Madiran in South West France. Praised in Roger Corder’s book, “The Wine Diet”, wines from the Madiran village were scientifically proven to have the highest possible concentration of antioxidants (procyanidins and resveratrol), compared to any other type of wine in the world. These compounds have been scientifically proven to have numerous health benefits, most strongly, combating heart and cardiovascular diseases.
Corderer praised wine from the producer Domaine Laougoué because it contains four times the amount of procyanidins than an average glass of red wine (120 mg/L vs 30-40mg/L). The wine’s heart-healthy properties come from the Tannat grape. It has been the subject of scientific praise due to the phenolic compounds in its thick skins.
2 – The Magic of Madiran Wine
Have you ever heard of ‘The French Paradox’? It’s a well-researched phenomenon that refers to people who live in South West France who consume a diet high in saturated fats, yet have statistically fewer cases of death from coronary heart disease. Studies show that this phenomenon may be due to the cardioprotective benefits of the local red wine, Madiran. France surpasses many countries in average life expectancy. They live longer partly due to the common practice of drinking rustic red wine with meals. Documentation shows that the French consume 2–3 glasses daily. The traditionally made wine reduces the unhealthy effects of high cholesterol foods common in their diet, including bread, cheese and rich desserts.
Wanderlust Wine has also added an additional wine to our portfolio from Sardinia. These wines have very high procyanidin levels and are commended in The Wine Diet. Experts believe these unique health-maintaining properties are as a result of the terroir, the grape properties and the winemaking methods.
Sardinia was always known as one of Italy’s best-kept secrets for an island of relaxed, sun-soaked life. But it was the profile of its local inhabitants that caught the scientific eye; an unusually high percentage live to well over 100 (“centenarians”). You can probably guess, it’s got something to do with their wine…
3 – Sardinian wine that won’t leave you feeling blue
There are five places in the world that are now considered so-called “Blue Zones”. These are geographic areas where people are living much longer and more active lives. The first Blue Zone identified was in Italy; Sardinia’s Nuoro Province, which researchers Gianni Pes and Michel Poulain, found to have 10 times the number of centenarians when compared on the same terms to the United States. Scientific reports conclude that, similarly to the French Paradox, despite local Sardinian’s diet consisting of high-fat foods (including local pecorino cheese made from grass-fed sheep which is high in omega-3 fatty acids), it is counteracted by 2-3 glasses of local red wine (from Grenache, otherwise known as Cannonau locally) per day.
We have added a moreish red wine from Sardinia’s Blue Zone courtesy of the producer Cantina Sorres, called Pensamentu (also from Grenache).
4 – The Unexpected Health Benefits Of Red Wine
Industry experts have been exploring and debating the health benefits of red wine for decades. Red wines contain around 10 times more polyphenols than white wine. This is because the winemaking methods allow the fresh juice to stay in contact with the grape skins for an extended period of time. This extracts the highest concentration of polyphenols that end up in the wine.
Here are some of the most common benefits:
Boosting heart health: Active compounds in red wine, including polyphenols, resveratrol and quercetin, have proved to have cardioprotective properties, helping to slow down the progression of atherosclerosis, protecting the heart cells from tissue damage after a stroke, decreasing triglyceride and cholesterol accumulation, regulating blood pressure levels, reducing inflammation and preventing oxidative stress.
Improving cholesterol: Studies show that alcohol may raise levels of good HDL cholesterol by as much as 5 to 15% . Red wine is particularly beneficial because its polyphenol antioxidants may also lower LDL levels.
Fighting free radical damage: The accumulation of free radicals plays a major role in the development of chronic and degenerative diseases, including cancer, autoimmune diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease and neurodegenerative diseases. The antioxidants in certain red wines help counteract oxidative stress. They act as free radical scavengers that prevent and repair damage caused by oxidation.
Resveratrol can block the multistep process of carcinogenesis, including the various stages of tumour initiation, promotion and progression.
Helping manage diabetes: Red wine can slow the passage of glucose through the small intestine and eventually into the bloodstream. It helps in preventing the spike in blood sugar levels experienced by patients with Type 2 diabetes.
Fighting obesity and weight gain: Red wine may help to fight obesity. Due to a compound found in grapes and other fruits (like blueberries and passionfruit) called piceatannol, which blocks an immature fat cell’s ability to develop and grow by binding to insulin receptors found in fat cells and blocking insulin’s ability to control cell cycles.
Helping prevent Alzheimer’s disease: Research indicates that people who eat a Mediterranean diet, consisting of red wine, vegetables, vegetables, fruits, fish and olive oil, have a 28% lower risk of developing mild cognitive impairment and a 48% lower risk of progressing from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s disease.
5 – What factors make a wine healthy?
Country of origin: Research shows wines from France, Sardinia and Uruguay score the highest.
Grape varietal: Certain grapes contain more of these good compounds in their skins. Tannat, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Grenache are examples of grapes that consistently produce wines with more antioxidants in the finished wines.
Winemaking: Firstly, white wines have much less of these health benefits! Lighter red wines with no body score very poorly in polyphenol and procyanidin content. It’s red wines that have tannins extracted from the skins during winemaking that are generally much healthier for you. So look for fuller bodied, heavier style wines.
Vine age: Look for ‘old-vine’ on the label (‘vieilles vignes’ on French labels). Older, established vines are generally better than younger vines.
Unfiltered wines: When wines are filtered or ‘fined’ the agents that are added damage the procyanidin content. The back of the label may say ‘unfiltered and unfined’ meaning it is more natural in the way it’s made.
6 – Responsible drinking
Experts associate numerous health benefits of red wine with light-to-moderate consumption. This means 1-2 glasses a day for men and ½ -1 glass a day for women.
They encourage consumers to follow guidelines on alcohol consumption limits issued by the NHS and the government. Any person with cardiac issues should discuss drinking with their GP or doctor.
Vitamins, minerals and a complete nutritious diet is vital for a person’s maximum wellbeing. There are other ways to increase your daily consumption of vascular-protecting polyphenols without drinking alcohol.
About, Richard Ellison, Wanderlust Wine
Richard set up Wanderlust Wine with the goal to import and champion small producers, making organically-focused wines. Wanderlust Wine now imports hundreds of wines from pockets of the world, all with their own unique story to tell.