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BETTER WINE FOR BETTER HEALTH: FACT OR FICTION?

Creina S. Stockley and Peter B. Høj

In the first decade of the twenty-first century, the potential therapeutic effects of regular moderate wine consumption are being increasingly acknowledged. They include a reduction in the risk of, and death from, cardiovascular disease, which accounted for 40% of all Australian deaths in 2000. The reduction in risk for wine consumers is similar to that of consumers of fruits, grains and vegetables, which, together with wine, are the core components of a 'Mediterranean-style diet. The chemical components of wine considered primarily responsible for this therapeutic effect are ethanol, and the phenolic compounds and their polyphenolic forms. Indeed, moderate wine consumption has been observed to supplement the cardioprotective effects of an already high phenolic diet, and more importantly, to counter the harmful effects of a high fat diet on blood clotting, endothelial function and lipid oxidation, which contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease. This paper explores both the viticultural and vinification factors that influence phenolic concentration in grapes and wine. The synthesis and accumulation of phenolic compounds in grapes is primarily dependent upon varietal factors, the expression of which is influenced by a combination of climatic and viticultural factors such as sunlight and temperature during ripening, as well as ripeness at harvest. While the maximum possible concentration of phenolic compounds in a wine will be determined by the content in the constituent grapes, factors which influence the extraction of the phenolic compounds from the skins and seeds primarily influence their concentration in the juice, must and wine. Once harvested, the concentration of phenolic compounds in grapes is invariate, but extraction efficiency can vary during vinification. Accordingly, this paper also explores innovative techniques and technologies that can increase the phenolic content of the resultant wine. At best, winemaking can only extract at 50% of the total phenolic compounds accumulated in the grapes. Therefore, the phenolic content of the resultant wine can only be increased by supplementation of the must during fermentation with additional sources of phenolic compounds. Alternatively, a grape seed extract could be added to wine post fermentation to supplement its phenolic content, although this same grape seed extract may also be added to other foods such as yoghurt, from which the phenolic compounds are readily absorbed. Regular and moderate consumption of wine by consumers should, however, be placed in context with the other constituents and characteristics of a healthy diet and lifestyle. Indeed, wine consumers generally have fewer risk factors for cardiovascular disease compared with beer and spirits consumers, which is reflected in an approximately 25% to 35% lower risk of cardiovascular disease for wine consumers compared to consumers of beer and spirits, respectively. We recommend that you consult the full text of this document, which was published in the Australian Journal of Grape and Wine Reasearch Volume 11, Number 2, 2005

Published on 12/19/2006
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