Fight the effects that aging has had on your brain & body

Red Wine, but Which Kind?


First, some common-sense, cautionary advice:
if you don't already drink alcohol, have any adverse reactions to alcohol or wine, are an alcoholic (recovering or current), take any medications with alcohol contraindications, are pregnant or frankly have ANY problems with moderate alcohol consumption or wine whatsoever: 

Don't use this article as an excuse to start. Or re-start. 

For many people, drinking alcohol is like playing with fire; it's dangerously easy to get burned, to go from moderation to abuse.

Got it? Good. Moving on...

Now, if you already drink alcoholic beverages in moderation, which these days amounts to no more than two drinks per day, there's some rather incredible news spanning the brain health, anti-aging and overall health areas that may make you switch your drink of choice. 

You probably predicted that we'd cite red wine as the healthy alcoholic drink of choice, but did you know that only one varietal of red wine has recently been shown to possess often exponentially higher properties than other kinds of wine? 

Yes, that affable wine lover's obsession in the movie "Sideways" may have done even more than jump-start the sales of Pinot Noir wines in the U.S. His love of this temperamental red wine varietal may have inadvertently done red wine lovers a big health favor to boot. 

How? Well, it turns out that the Pinot Noir grape tends to contain significantly, often exponentially, higher amounts of what is now being revered as the most important health component in red wine found to date, and some say one of the most significant anti-aging compounds known so far: resveratrol. 

Generally speaking, Pinot Noir contains several times the amount of resveratrol of other red wines such as Syrah or Merlot, which (like most other red wines besides Pinot Noir) already contain about 10 times the amount of resveratrol as white wines. 

But first, a quick refresher on some of the health benefits of red wine in general, as found by a variety of popular research studies from over the last decade:

- The "French Paradox" studies illustrate that regular red wine consumption in moderation appears to significantly reduce the risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular problems, even despite a high-fat diet.

- Lowers risk of Alzheimer's: several studies show that resveratrol  lowers the risk of developing Alzheimer's, by reducing the levels of amyloid-beta peptides, which are responsible for the disease.

- Boosts memory: researchers at Ohio State University found that moderate amounts of alcohol - amounts equivalent to two drinks per day for a human - improved the memories of laboratory rats.

- Has been shown to lower bad (LDL) cholesterol levels

- Anti-carcinogenic/anti-cancer properties: inhibits cellular events associated with the initiation, promotion, and progression of tumors

- Contains powerful antioxidant polyphenols, which contribute to anti-cancer, anti-aging benefits including helping to fight heart disease, vision disorders, allergies, viral infections, and more.

...and many more not yet quantified by research, given that red wine has been deemed by many scientists to be one of the most complex biological liquids known, containing hundreds of chemical classes, many not yet known or understood, whose interactions between each other are subtle and complex and not yet understood.

Perhaps that's why red wine has conjured such mystical qualities for centuries; every varietal, every vintage, every vineyard, every bottle is different in sometimes subtle and often grand ways...resulting from the myriad variables that go into the wine making equation. And the variance in health benefits, particularly resveratrol content, go right along with this equation.

Particularly in the case of Pinot Noir: the Pinot Noir grape, more than any other grape used for wine, has a tendency to produce the highest amounts of the antioxidant resveratrol, as shown by Cornell researcher LeRoy Creasy, due largely to the fact that this finicky, thin-skinned grape which arguably grows best in cool, moist climates such as Oregon's Willamette Valley and the Burgundy region of France is often "stressed" by a combination of pathogenic organisms and temperature and other stresses which result in the Pinot Noir grape producing resveratrol to defend itself against such attacks. Well, this same chemical defense that extends the life of these grapes also appears to have similar benefits for us. 

No wonder the French have gotten away with those rich, high-fat diets while staying thin and having a comparatively low incidence of cardiovascular diseases (a little Burgundy with lunch, a little more with dinner)? 

The irony of winemakers trying having to combat the environmental attacks on their Pinot grapes in order to keep their crops alive has recently taken a turn towards the healthy, with some Oregon Pinot Noir makers starting to test and even report the levels of resveratrol in their wines(!), some even debating (successfully) with the government to be allowed to list the amount of resveratrol on the back of the bottles. 

All this in such a relatively short period of time, from the "rumor" that red wine may have some health benefits in the early 1990's all the way to listing the amount of resveratrol on the back of wine bottles! 

We think that this is a good thing, as why not choose to drink a red wine that contains 5 or even 10 times the amount of resveratrol content as other wines that you could choose from, especially when some of these same Pinots exhibit some wonderfully complex, rich qualities due to the same complexities that forced the high resveratrol content?

If you're already a Pinot Noir fan, you probably already appreciate the qualities of the great complex Pinots grown in the cool, damp climates of Oregon, parts of France, parts of Northern California, or even New York. And although the resveratrol content can vary widely from winery to winery, year to year, crop to crop, different fermentation processes, and other factors, it's a generally safe bet to say that choosing a glass of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is likely to contain far higher resveratrol (and hence health benefits) than a Merlot or Syrah from a warmer, kinder climate. 

Again, if you don't already drink alcohol, there's no need to start: you can take resveratrol supplements (which would arguably provide a more consistent, higher dosage of concentrated resveratrol than one would derive from a glass or two of Pinot, and without the alcohol), and there is also some resveratrol present in other foods such as peanuts, regular red grapes, pommegranates and other foods. 

But in our opinion, if you already enjoy wine or alcoholic beverages in moderation, you may well benefit your brain and body by switching a Pinot Noir grown in a cool, damp climate instead of other wines or drinks. You can even look for those that now list the amount of resveratrol right on the back of the bottle! 

And remember, resveratrol is only one of the recently discovered components of the incredibly complex liquid known as red wine that has been shown to confer health benefits; there are likely numerous other yet-to-be-discovered chemicals and interactions produced by the red wine growth, production and fermentation processes that provide many other health benefits which (once identified and researched) will help to further explain why red wine appears to possess so many health properties.

Until then, it's clear that red wine does have some benefits, and Pinot Noir may well be the movie star of the varietal. Cheers to your health!

If you're a wine fan and would like to know some of our favorite Pinot Noirs on the market, or would like to share YOUR personal favorites, and let's talk wine! 

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