I write about wine, and I write about health and fitness, so it was inevitable that these two topics would come together. Sometimes I even have a glass of wine while writing, and I suppose that’s how I came up with the idea for this particular column. I know that I always feel better after a glass of wine (so long as it’s just one glass), so I decided to uncork the facts behind the wine-for-health idea.

The first person I called on was local wine trivia expert, Faye Hawes of Rancho Ventavo Cellars in Oxnard, whose monthly newsletters always have an interesting tidbit about the grape. She told me about a couple of studies; one in particular was a Danish study published by the British Medical Journal that suggests wine drinkers have healthier diets than beer or spirits drinkers. Researchers found that this was largely based on shopping habits because those    
who purchase wine also buy more olives, fruits and vegetables, poultry, healthy cooking oils, low-fat dairy and lean meats than beer buyers. Beer buyers were found to shop for more convenience foods, sugary ingredients, processed and fatty meats, chips, butter or margarine and soda than wine buyers.

These results showed that the health benefits of drinking wine could be due to certain substances in wine or to different characteristics of people who drink other types of alcohol (that and the fact that you have probably never seen a wine drinker chug and belch). But what about the so-called healthy substances in wine?

Wine consumed in moderation has been found to raise HDL cholesterol (the good kind), reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers, and also slow the progression of neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. A French study supported by the European Institute for Wine and Health further showed that wine appeared to lower the health risks associated with high blood pressure.

Red wine, in particular, due to having longer contact with the grape skin, has a higher concentration of flavonoids and resveratrol, which are antioxidants that can prevent cellular damage in the body. Resveratrol has been shown to prevent blood clotting and arterial plaque formation, and has properties that can improve cardiovascular health and lower the risk for coronary heart disease. 

One could argue that similar amounts of resveratrol can also be received by simply consuming table grapes. But when consumed in moderation as wine, that’s where researchers are finding potential heart-healthy benefits.

Does this mean we should run out and buy a bottle? Hawes sums it up nicely: “It certainly can’t hurt to increase the amount of red wine you drink!”

But which red wine is best? Well, according to research from Cornell University in New York, as compared to other wines, pinot noir contains twice as much resveratrol. As luck would have it, Rancho Ventavo has a delicious 2005 pinot noir from Santa Maria. Head on over to their tasting room in Oxnard’s Heritage Square to give it a whirl (or a swirl).

For more information, call Rancho Ventavo at 483-8084 or go to  www.ranchoventavo.com.

Please drink responsibly.      

findingojai@aol.com     

Lisa Snider is a local freelance writer. For more, go to
www.LisaSnider.com.