Opinion: The Most Heart-Healthy Wine

The secret of wine's health benefits don't lie in resveratrol but procyanidins, according to author Roger Corder.

You’ve heard that red wine is good for your heart, but what kinds of red wine? Roger Corder, a professor and expert in cardiovascular function, tells you in a new book, The Red Wine Diet: Drink Wine Every Day and Live a Long and Healthy Life.

Madiran, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Barolo and a number of other big reds are best for you, Corder says. The more dark color, the more extracted flavors, the better. Where can I find a Madiran?

Is Pinot Noir good, too? Sometimes. But it can be too wimpy in the department that matters most for your health, according to Corder. Rose? Not really. White wine? Hardly. These don’t have the stuffing they need to rate highly in Corder’s scheme of things.

Am I ready to give up the glass of Sauvignon Blanc or Viognier that I drink while chopping onions and mincing garlic to start dinner? Should I cut back on Pinot Noir and find an importer of Madiran to lower my risk of heart disease, diabletes and high blood pressure? I wouldn’t have thought so, but then I met Dr. Corder last week and read portions of his book.

The secret to the healthful effects are compounds called procyanidins, and they come from the grape skins. Madiran is a wine made in the Gascony region of the southwest of France from the Tannat grape, which has thick skins full of pigment and flavor compounds and those same characteristics promote the procyanidins, says Corder.

He should know, as a medical doctor and a cardiovascular expert at the William Harvey Research Institute in London. His book, The Red Wine Diet made a significant stir a year ago in the U.K. when it was published there.

Corder said he began his research by identifying regions of the world where people lived the longest, and soon zeroed in on the Gers area of the southwest of France where despite diets heavy with cassoulet, foie gras and other foods full of artery clogging animal fat, the local population lives very long lives. Gers has double the national average of men aged 90 or more, Corder found. And what wine do they drink?

“The wines are the most procyanidin-rich I have encountered,” he writes. “The explanation seems to be the Tannat grape, which is grown widely there.”

He’s getting more attention here in the U.S. for the book resulting from a publicity tour last week. He debunks the theory popularized largely by Dr. Curtis Ellison of the U.S. that the heart-healthy effects of wine come largely from the alcohol alone.

He also debunks the importance of the ingredient resveratrol in the observed increase in longevity of people who regularly drink red wines, highlighting the massive quantities of this natural substance in wine that you would have to consume to enjoy the benefits.

Corder calculates that procyanidins are in high enough concentration in the right type of red wine that a normal glass or two a day provides the ideal dose.

I can’t wait to read the book more thoroughly, because as I flipped through and read numerous passages they all seemed to be meaty for knowledgeable wine drinkers, winemakers and people in the wine trade. It’s not simply pro-wine propaganda. Corder goes to great lengths to suggest foods like cranberries, walnuts and pomegrantates that provide lots of procyanidins, and he give a nice, reassuring interpretation of what are the best dietary habits in general to help you live long and prosper.

Corder’s website for the book is a good place to find out more. And the book has a pretty extensive list of individual heart-healthy wines, which he rates on a five-heart scale. These are wines that he likes that also have high procyanidin content based on his lab tests. Red wines that undergo a long fermentation and long maceration period have the most.

Hhhmmm, Madiran. I know the wine district of that name is near Bordeaux. I haven’t drunk one of those in years. I’d like to hear from people who have. What do you like about them, how did you hear about them, and how do they age?

10 Healthy, Highly Rated Wines

Published on November 20, 2007
Topics: Healthy Wines, Wine and Health
About the Author
Jim Gordon
Contributing Editor

Reviews wines from California.

Jim Gordon has been covering the wine industry as an editor and reporter for more than 30 years. In 2006 he became editor of Wines & Vines, the media company for North American winemakers and grape growers. He directs the editorial content of Wines & Vines in the monthly print magazine, digital and social media. Gordon is also a contributing editor for Wine Enthusiast magazine and past director of the annual Symposium for Professional Wine Writers at Meadowood Napa Valley. He was editor in chief for two books by publisher Dorling Kindersley of London: Opus Vino, and 1000 Great Everyday Wines. Gordon was managing editor of Wine Spectator for 12 years, and editor in chief of Wine Country Living magazine for four, during which time he helped create Wine Country Living TV for NBC station KNTV in San Jose. He lives in Napa, California. Email: jgordon@wineenthusiast.net.

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