Wine Jones: Cheers to your health |

Wine Jones: Cheers to your health

Photo courtesy Ursa VineyardsDeborah Elissa Gray, owner of Ursa Vineyards, picks a health-giving tannat grape to be turned into wine at the vineyard located west of South Lake Tahoe in Camino.

Red wine and your health

Ever since “60 Minutes” trumpeted the health benefits of red wine in the early ’90s, toasting to your health has become a more accurate double entendre than ever considered before. The basis of “60 Minutes'” infamous report was the “French Paradox,” which explained how the general French population could consume large amounts of butter and other fats, and still report considerably lower incidences of heart disease and longer life expectancies than Americans. The report found higher consumptions of red wine in the French diet, as compared to their neighbors across the Atlantic, could account for the health differences in the populations.

The segment suggested that the organic chemical responsible for red wine’s deep color and complex flavors – resveratrol, a polyphenol – reduced heart disease and improved overall mortality. Following the “60 Minutes” report, wine consumption in America took a dramatic leap in numbers, and many doctors began suggesting a glass of wine a day as part of a healthy life style.

Recently, a new book, “The Red Wine Diet,” by scientist Roger Corder, suggests that another polyphenol, procyanidin, is the more healthful polyphenol than resveratrol.

Is more wine better?

Both procyanidin and resveratrol are antioxidants, which have been found to raise HDL cholesterol (the good one) and prevent the bad cholesterol, LDL, from forming. Red wine may also prevent blood clots, and reduce plaque formation in arteries. However, in the new study by Corder, he suggests that resveratrol is in such small quantities in the finished wines, that to achieve the utmost of their healthful benefits, one would have to drink way too much wine a day. He suggests that you can receive the full benefits of procyanidins, by consuming 2-3 glasses a day. This amount is slightly higher than The American Heart Association’s daily recommendation of 1-2 glasses for men, and one glass for women. The differing amounts recommended for men and women are because alcohol affects each sex differently. A woman’s body has more fat and less muscle than a man’s. Alcohol can be diluted into water-holding muscle tissue, but not into fat tissue. Therefore, a woman’s body cannot metabolize alcohol as quickly as a man’s.

All grapes are not created equal

Natives of the Italian island Sardinia have the longest life expectancy in Europe. These people drink highly tannic red wines on a daily basis, and the grape varietal used for these wines is tannat. Tannat is a thick-skinned grape native to southwest France. The grape produces dark, tannic, smoky wines that are meant to be enjoyed with food. In the region of Madiran, which is located at the base of the Pyrenees Mountains, tannat-based red wines are produced and consumed daily by the residents. The area boasts double the national average of men over 90. The tannat grape has the highest concentration of procyanidin than any other grape, three to four times more than cabernet sauvignon.

Cheers with a glass of local “healthy” wine

While drinking red wine daily, and particularly tannat wine daily, may give you added health benefits, wine consumption should be in moderation and accompanied by a healthy diet to provide you with the maximum health benefits and longevity.

In Corder’s book, he also states that wines made in traditional method, long fermentation with little or no filtering or fining, and wines that are less processed, have more concentrations of tannat wines.

While this grape originated in the south of France, it was brought to Uruguay by Basque settlers, and has become that country’s national grape. It is grown in Australia and in California. The grape was recognized by the BATF as a grape allowed for wine in America in 2002, although it had been planted and used as mostly a blending grape prior to that time. One of the first vineyards in California to plant this grape is the Silvaspoons Vineyard in Lodi. You will find some of the best examples of this wine from grapes sourced from this vineyard.

2005 Ursa Vineyards, Silvaspoons, Lodi

The nose has smoky, dusty qualities reminiscent of cabernet layered with classic cherry and ripe plum fruit. Its substantial palate shows deep red ripe fruit flavors, well- integrated tannin and hints of French oak.

2005 Tablas Creek, Paso Robles

Shows a dense purple-red color and has a nose of tobacco, smoke, game herbs (sage and juniper), chocolate and ripe berries. The rich palate has juicy flavors of raspberry and plum, with big but ripe tannins, and a long, smoky, generous finish.

” Janice Jones is a Truckee resident and wine consultant. You can reach her at

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