Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Wine and Health

Once again this year, I attended Vinexpo Americas in NYC. One of my favorite things from this event are the conferences and master classes offered. There was one that attracted my attention immediately, mostly, because it is a topic I have not yet written about: the relationship between alcohol and health, or in my case of wine and health.

Those that are middle aged like me, have seen/heard about the so called “French Paradox”, it was featured in CBS's “60 minutes” program in 1991, and basically it explained how red wine in moderation is good for your health. Now, in order to arrive to this conclusion, they compared French with American populations, and saw how the French had less cholesterol and lower heart disease than the Americans, due to all the red wine the French consumed. 


Now, what makes red wine good for you? Polyphenols, especially Resveratrol. Polyphenols are powerful antioxidants, and may come from tannins both from grape skins and oak and from anthocyanins, which give color to wine.  Doctors have been studying and conducting research about Resveratrol and its effects, mostly because it lowers blood pressure, increases good cholesterol and decreases bad cholesterol, regulates insulin and suppresses cancer cells. Its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities protect against Alzheimer’s and slows aging. As you may imagine red wines have higher levels of Resveratrol than whites, and that is why most people agree that moderated red wine consumption is good for you. Now, among red wines, there are some grape varieties that have more Resveratrol than others, such as Tannat, Cabernet Sauvignon, Nebbiolo, Pinot Noir, Sagrantino, Petite Syrah and Malbec. So, do consume more wines made from these!

But the Vinexpo conference called “The Health Halo, How Health is Impacting How We Drink”, was not about the French Paradox, but about trends and how more and more people are more health conscious about what they put in their bodies, which applies not only to food but also to drinks. 

The Panelists (Adam Teeter- VinePair,  David Ross- owner of LaLou Bars, Aaron Goldfarb- Journalist and Jefferson Kohler- Marketing Manager at Branca USA) argued about consumers worrying about calories, carbs, additives and alcohol. Especially they focused on a new trend in town: low alcoholic or non alcoholic wines. With one of them posing this question: Is this the future of wine? I must admit I was kind of surprised to see a booth of non alcoholic wines at Vinexpo and I thought, who would want to drink that? Isn’t booze part of the fun of drinking wine or spirits? 
Among many discussions the panel talked about the rise of spiked seltzer waters, which only have between 4.5 to 6% ABV, and about how they have become a favorite to younger generations, taking an important share of the wine market. I must admit I’m not familiar with spiked seltzers... maybe this is something I should explore... but high alcohol in wines is something that truly bothers me, not only because too much alcohol unbalances the wine and I consider it a fault, but because at my age, I do digest wines with less than 13% Abv better than those that have more. I also prefer to drink less alcoholic wines, because they allow me to drink more... I guess I would rather have 2 glasses of a Mosel Riesling with 12% Abv over a glass of CA Chardonnay at 14.5% Abv. Mostly because, the next day I won’t have a horrible headache or feel super dehydrated like I do after drinking a wine with 15% + Abv.

There was also a lot of discussions about natural, organic and biodynamic wines, and how important it is for producers to get certified. Most of the panelists agreed that, as people try to buy organic produce, spend a lot of time reading labels and support sustainability, they also care about what is inside their alcoholic drinks, including wines. Of course, I’m pro to having less additives and chemicals in my body but we need to remember that wine is a chemical product too, that needs to be stable, and sometimes going natural may mean exactly the opposite. Have you ever tried a natural wine and didn’t like it, because it was either cloudy or too funky? I guess, in the end I must agree with the panelists and admit that flavor will always win. 


Now, the audience asked about nutrition labels and if they will help the wine industry. Will knowing how many calories, carbs, sugar or abv levels help sales or not? Listing calories, maybe. Now, listing every additive added to wine… I’m not so sure,  there’s a reason why wineries don’t put all the info in the back of your bottle, mostly because not every ingredient in wine is natural. Now, regarding calories, I’m willing to admit that I do something, the audience admitted doing, in order to drink my wine, I tried to save calories in other places, like eating less carbs for example. I don’t necessarily count the calories in wine, but I’m aware they add up, yet wine gives me so much pleasure, it’s so worth the extra effort. So, my dear winos, as long as you drink responsibly, a glass of wine not only will be good for your body, but will do wonders for your soul too! Now, where is my wine glass? I got so distracted writing this post...I forgot to finish it!  

Here are two recommendations for you under $20:
Chateau La Nerthe Les Cassagnes Cotes du Rhone Villages 2017 $19
Domaine de Verquiere Rasteau 2017 $18
The first is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre, the second is just Grenache and Syrah, both featuring big bodies, soft tannins and plenty of black fruits and spice. Have them with lamb or steak with herbs.

Until my next post, wishing all the Winos health and patience while we go through these extraordinary circumstances. Silvina

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#healthandwine #winewednesday #thoughtsoflawina.