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.
Perfect Pairings: Enhancing Your Meal with Healthy Red Wines
The art of wine pairing goes beyond just complementing flavors; it’s about elevating the entire dining experience. When it comes to the healthiest red wines, such as Madiran and those from Sardinia, pairing them with the right foods can not only enhance their taste but also maximize their health benefits. Here’s a guide to pairing these wines with some of the staples of the French diet:
- Whole Grain Bread: The earthy flavors of whole grain bread can be beautifully complemented by the robust and tannic nature of Madiran wine. The polyphenols in the wine and the fibers in the bread can together aid digestion.
- Camembert and Brie: These creamy cheeses can balance the tannins in red wine, creating a harmonious taste experience. The fatty acids in the cheese combined with the wine’s polyphenols can have cardioprotective effects.
- Blue Cheese: The strong flavors of blue cheese can stand up to the boldness of Sardinian wines, making for a delightful pairing.
3. Rich Desserts:
- Chocolate-based Desserts: Dark chocolate and red wine are a classic pairing. The flavonoids in dark chocolate combined with the polyphenols in red wine can offer antioxidant benefits.
- Fruit Tarts: The natural sweetness of fruits can be enhanced with the fruity undertones of Madiran wine, making for a refreshing end to a meal.
4. Main Courses:
- Grilled Meats: The rich flavors of grilled or roasted meats can be complemented by the full-bodied nature of Sardinian wines. The iron in the meat and the wine’s polyphenols can work together to support heart health.
- Fish: While white wine is traditionally paired with fish, certain red wines, when served slightly chilled, can go well with fatty fish like salmon, enhancing its omega-3 benefits.
5. Vegetarian Dishes:
- Lentil and Bean Stews: The earthy flavors of legume-based dishes can be elevated with a glass of Madiran wine, offering both taste and nutritional benefits.
Incorporating these pairing suggestions into your meals can transform your dining experience. Remember, the key is moderation and balance. When you pair the right wine with the right food, you’re not just indulging your taste buds but also nourishing your body.
The Health Benefits of Madiran Wines
Madiran wine, native to South West France, is believed to be a key factor behind ‘The French Paradox’. This term describes the low incidence of heart diseases in the region despite a diet rich in saturated fats. Rich in procyanidins, a type of polyphenol, Madiran wine offers cardioprotective benefits. Regular consumption, about 2–3 glasses daily, seems to counteract potential dietary risks, enhancing the French’s life expectancy.
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.
Comparing Madiran and Sardinian Wines with Other Reds
While Madiran and Sardinian wines have been spotlighted for their health benefits, it’s essential to understand how they stack up against other popular red wines globally. This comparative analysis can offer readers a broader perspective on the world of red wines and their associated health benefits.
1. Cabernet Sauvignon:
- Taste Profile: Known for its deep red color and full-bodied flavor, Cabernet Sauvignon offers a mix of black cherry, blackcurrant, and sometimes green bell pepper notes.
- Health Benefits: Rich in antioxidants, especially flavonoids, this wine can help reduce inflammation and lower blood pressure.
- Taste Profile: Softer than Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot is medium- to full-bodied with juicy fruit flavors like plum, black cherry, and raspberry.
- Health Benefits: Merlot contains a good amount of resveratrol, which has been linked to heart health benefits.
3. Pinot Noir:
- Taste Profile: Lighter in color and body, Pinot Noir offers flavors of red fruit like cherry, raspberry, and strawberry.
- Health Benefits: Pinot Noir has a high concentration of the polyphenol resveratrol, which can offer cardioprotective benefits.
- Taste Profile: Known as Shiraz in Australia and Syrah elsewhere, this wine is bold and full-bodied with flavors of blackberry, plum, and pepper.
- Health Benefits: Shiraz contains antioxidants that can help reduce the risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol.
- Taste Profile: Often zesty and with a high alcohol content, Zinfandel can range from blackberry and anise when young to more mellow flavors of raspberry, fig, and prune as it ages.
- Health Benefits: Zinfandel is rich in anthocyanins, which have been linked to anti-aging properties and heart health benefits.
Comparative Analysis: While Madiran and Sardinian wines stand out for their high procyanidin levels and associated health benefits, other red wines also offer a range of health-promoting properties. The key is to choose wines that are made traditionally, with minimal intervention, to retain their natural health benefits.
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.
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.
What are Polyphenols?
Polyphenols are a diverse group of naturally occurring compounds found abundantly in plants. They contribute to the color, flavor, and disease resistance of many fruits, vegetables, and beverages, including wine. Beyond their role in plants, polyphenols have been extensively studied for their potential health benefits in humans.
Types of Polyphenols in Red Wine:
- Flavonoids: This group includes quercetin and catechins. They are primarily responsible for the deep color of red wines and have been linked to heart health benefits.
- Non-flavonoids: Resveratrol belongs to this category. It has gained attention for its potential anti-aging properties and its ability to promote heart health.
- Tannins: Found in the skins, seeds, and stems of grapes, tannins contribute to the astringency of red wines. They are a type of polyphenol that has been associated with reducing the risk of heart diseases.
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.