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And Now, it’s Procyanidins!

by David on November 23, 2006

So, we’ve just gotten past the resveratrol craze and realized we’d have to drink enough wine to kill us to get the benefit ;-) (although now they say it might also help to prevent strokes–stay tuned).  And now it’s procyanidins, which apparently are condensed tannins found in red wine that are thought to be beneficial to blood vessels and arteries. So, it’s back to the old polyphenol story, which is also the resveratrol story, which is also the French Paradox story. It seems it’s all about anti-oxidants.

Yippee! We can add this very positive piece of news to the growing heap of data about the potential benefits of drinking a little red wine every day. Even if a bunch of studies come out to contest the efficasy of procyanidins next week, it’s great publicity.

Now, this stuff, I just love: “Wines richest in these tannins had the greatest protective effect on the cells and were from regions – Sardinia and southwest France – that use Old World winemaking techniques.” This, according to a story in WebMD (and everywhere!) regarding a study done at the William Harvey Research Institute at the Queen Mary’s School of Medicine and Dentistry in England.

I’m not questioning the results of the research, which found these wines to have significantly higher levels of procyanidins than the other wines they tested. It’s just that these generalizations kind of annoy me. The thing is, with global communication, you can find old-world and high-tech winemaking happening side-by-side in virtually any wine-producing region in the world these days.

Another article on the subject said that there’s an unusually high percentage of centenarians in Madiran, a wine-producing region in southwestern France. Perhaps that explains the old-world approach to winemaking? ;) Presumably their longevity is a testament to drinking lots of dark, tannic Madiran wine.

So, now the poor retailers have to scramble to track down and stock the formerly somewhat obscure wines of Madiran and reds from Sardinia, just as health-food stores are struggling to keep resveratrol supplements on the shelves.

Anyway, I suspect this has more to do with the grape varieties used, and less with the winemaking techniques. There was a reference to 21-day skin contact times in Madiran winemaking. Well, that’s not unusual for a good Napa Valley Cab, though it may be lower in procyanidins even so. I don’t know.

Then, finally, they mention that the red grape variety of choice in Madiran is Tannat, a variety almost unique to southwest France.  According to Jancis Robinson, “Young Tannat can be so deeply coloured and tannic that it recalls Nebbiolo.” Hmmm. I wonder if they did any tests on Barolo?

Whatever… Of course, we all like to hear good news about the benefits of drinking red wine. As the article said: “Several studies have shown that moderate drinkers of red wine have less heart disease than non-drinkers” and, if true, it’s good for for all of us, producers and consumers. As much as has been written about polyphenols, you begin to think there might be something to it. Even if reports on what’s good or bad for us change as often the weather.

Me, I drink wine, whatever its color, because I like it. But the message is clear: whatever else you consume, be sure and drink a glass or two of red wine a day. It could be good for our health, and we KNOW it enhances our lives and, of course, our sense of well-being! Bottoms up!

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