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Wine Tasting | Red Wines

February 12th, 2008

French Taste of Wines | Red Wines
Wine tasting (often, in wine circles, simply tasting) is the sensory examination and evaluation of wine. While the practice of wine tasting is as ancient as its production, a more formalized methodology has slowly become established from the 14th century onwards. Modern, professional wine tasters (such as sommeliers or buyers for retailers) use a constantly-evolving formal terminology which is used to describe the range of perceived flavors, aromas and general characteristics of a wine. More informal, recreational tasting may use similar terminology, usually involving a much less analytical process for a more general, personal appreciation. The results of the four recognized stages to wine tasting –

- appearance
- “in glass” fragrance
- “in mouth” sensations
- “finish” (aftertaste)
– are combined in order to establish the following properties of a wine: complexity and character
- potential (suitability for aging or drinking)
- possible faults

A wine’s overall quality assessment, based on this examination, follows further careful description and comparison with recognized standards, both with respect to other wines in its price range and according to known factors pertaining to the region or vintage; if it is typical of the region or diverges in style; if it uses certain wine-making techniques, such as barrel fermentation or malolactic fermentation, or any other remarkable or unusual characteristics.

Whereas wines are regularly tasted in isolation, a wine’s quality assessment is more objective when performed alongside several other wines, in what are known as tasting “flights”. Wines may be deliberately selected for their vintage (”horizontal” tasting) or proceed from a single winery (”vertical” tasting), to better compare vineyard and vintages, respectively. Alternatively, in order to promote an unbiased analysis, bottles and even glasses may be disguised in a “blind” tasting, to rule out any prejudicial awareness of either vintage or winery.

Blind tasting

To ensure impartial judgment of a wine, it should be served blind — that is, without the taster(s) having seen the label or bottle shape. Blind tasting may also involve serving the wine from a black wine glass to mask the color of the wine. A taster’s judgment can be prejudiced by knowing details of a wine, such as geographic origin, price, reputation, color, or other considerations.

Scientific research has long demonstrated the power of suggestion in perception as well as the strong effects of expectancies. For example, people expect more expensive wine to have more desirable characteristics than less expensive wine. When given wine that they are falsely told is expensive they virtually always report it as tasting better than the very same wine when they are told that it is inexpensive. French researcher Frédéric Brochet “submitted a mid-range Bordeaux in two different bottles, one labeled as a cheap table wine, the other bearing a grand cru etiquette” and obtained predictable results. Tasters described the supposed grand cru as “woody, complex, and round” and the supposed cheap wine as “short, light, and faulty.” Blind tastings have repeatedly demonstrated that price is not highly correlated with the evaluations made by most people who taste wine.

Similarly, people have expectations about wines because of their geographic origin, producer, vintage, color, and many other factors. For example, when Brochet served a white wine he received all the usual descriptions: “fresh, dry, honeyed, lively.” Later he served the same wine dyed red and received the usual red terms: “intense, spicy, supple, deep.”

The world of wine has numerous myths and exaggerations that are only now being disproven scientifically, yet they influence perceptions and expectancies. Not even professional tasters are immune to the strong effects of expectancies. Therefore, the need for blind tasting continues.

Vertical and horizontal tasting

Vertical and horizontal wine tastings are wine tasting events that are arranged to highlight differences between similar wines.

In a vertical tasting, different vintages of the same wine type from the same winery are tasted. This emphasizes differences between various vintages.
In a horizontal tasting, the wines are all from the same vintage but are from different wineries. Keeping wine variety or type and wine region the same helps emphasize differences in winery styles.

Tasting flights

Tasting flight is a term used by wine tasters to describe a selection of wines, usually between three and eight glasses, but sometimes as many as fifty, presented for the purpose of sampling and comparison.

Glasses used in tasting flights are usually smaller than normal wine glasses, and they are often presented on top of a sheet of paper which identifies each wine and gives some information about each grape or vineyard. This format allows tasters to compare and contrast different wines.

An extended tasting will typically consist of several flights, each with a theme. For example, several wines from the same region and vintage would comprise a flight, or several wines from the same variety but different regions. It is typically the responsibility of the tasting organizer to select flights that offer maximum illumination of similarities and differences, while at the same time making sure the progression of flights is appropriate.

Serving temperature

For a tasting, still white wines should be served at between 16 and 20 °C (60 and 68 °F). If white wine is served below this temperature there is a tendency for the bouquet and flavor to be suppressed. For red wines a serving temperature of from 21.1 °C (70 °F) to room temperature is recommended. If wine is properly stored (12.7 °C (55 °F) at 80% humidity) time should be allowed for the wine to reach proper temperature before service. There are many people who like to taste Champagne and other sparklers very well chilled. However, serving wine that is very cold can completely suppress aromas and flavors of the wine. In fact, if one allows a sparkler to completely discharge the carbon dioxide and is tasted as a still wine at 20 °C (68 °F), one is better able to determine if the wine is drinkable. Many a bad sparkler hides beneath a cloud of cold. If one is comparing wines then all the whites and all the reds should be served at their respective optimum temperatures, so they may be judged in a standardized way.


The shape of a wineglass can have a subtle impact on the perception of wine, especially its bouquet.Typically, the ideal shape is considered to be wider toward the bottom, with a narrower aperture at the top (’egg’, or perhaps, ‘beaker’ shaped). ‘Tulip’-shaped glasses, which are widest at the top are considered the least ideal. Many wine tastings use ISO XL5 glasses, which are ‘egg’-shaped. Interestingly, the effect of glass shape does not appear to be related to whether the glass is pleasing to look at.

Order of tasting

Tasting order is very important, as heavy or sweet wines can dominate lighter wines and skew the taster’s assessment of those wines. As such, wines should be tasted in the following order: sparkling wines; light whites, then heavy whites; roses; light reds; heavy reds; sweet wines.

Without having tasted the wines, however, one does not know if, for example, a white is heavy or light. Before tasting, try to determine the order the wines should be assessed in, by appearance and nose alone. Remember that heavy wines will be deeper in color and generally more intense on the nose. Sweeter wines, being denser, will leave thick, viscous streaks (called legs) down the inside of the glass, when swirled.

The wine tasting process

Tasting Wine | Red Wines Judging color is the first step in tasting wineThere are five basic steps in tasting wine: color, swirl, smell, taste, and savour. This is also known as the five Ss: See, Swirl, Sniff, Sip, Savor. During this process, a taster must look for clarity, varietal character, integration, expressiveness, complexity, and connectedness.

A wine’s color is better judged by putting it against a white background. The wine glass is put at an angle in order to see the colors. Colors can give the taster clues to the grape variety, and whether the wine was aged in wood.

Characteristics assessed during tasting

Varietal character describes how much a wine presents its inherent grape aromas. A wine taster also looks for integration, which is a state in which none of the components of the wine (acid, tannin, alcohol, etc) is out of balance with the other components. When a wine is well balanced, the wine is said to have achieved a harmonious fusion.

Another important quality of the wine to look for is its expressiveness. Expressiveness is the quality the “wine possesses when its aromas and flavors are well-defined and clearly projected. The complexity of the wine is affected by many factors, one of which may be the multiplicity of its flavors. The connectedness of the wine, a rather abstract and difficult to ascertain quality, is how connected is the bond between the wine and the land where it comes from.

Connoisseur wine tasting

A wine’s quality can be judged by its bouquet and taste. The bouquet is the total aromatic experience of the wine. Assessing a wine’s bouquet can also reveal faults such as cork taint, oxidation due to heat overexposure, and yeast contamination (e.g., due to Brettanomyces). To some wine aficionados, the presence of some Brettanomyces aromatic characteristics is considered a positive attribute; however to others, even the slightest hint of Brettanomyces character is cause for a wine’s rejection.

The bouquet of wine is best revealed by gently swirling the wine in a wine glass to expose it to more oxygen and release more aromatic etheric, ester, and aldehyde molecules that comprise the essential components of a wine’s bouquet.

Pausing to experience a wine’s bouquet aids the wine taster in anticipating the wine’s flavors and focusing the palate. The “nose” of a wine - its bouquet or aroma - is the major determinate of perceived flavor in the mouth. Once inside the mouth, the aromatics are further liberated by exposure to body heat, and transferred retronasally to the olfactory receptor site. It is here that the complex taste experience characteristic of a wine actually commences.

Thoroughly tasting a wine involves perception of its array of taste and mouthfeel attributes, which involve the combination of textures, flavors, and overall “structure”. Following appreciation of its olfactory characteristics, the wine taster savors a wine by holding it in the mouth for a few seconds to saturate the taste buds. When the wine is allowed pass slowly through the mouth it presents the connoisseur with the fullest gustatory profile available to the human palate.

The acts of pausing and focusing through each step distinguishes wine tasting from simple quaffing. Through this process, the full array of aromatic molecules is captured and interpreted by approximately 15 million olfactory receptors, comprising a few hundred olfactory receptor classes. When tasting several wines in succession, however, key aspects of this fuller experience (length and finish, or aftertaste) must necessarily be sacrificed through expectoration.

Although taste qualities are known to be widely distributed throughout the oral cavity, the concept of an anatomical “tongue map” yet persists in the wine tasting arena, in which different tastes are believed to map to different areas of the tongue. A widely accepted example is the misperception that the tip of the tongue uniquely tells how sweet a wine is and the upper edges tell its acidity.

Scoring wine

As part of the tasting process, and as a way of comparing the merits of the various wines, wines are given scores according to a relatively set system. This may be either explicitly weighting different aspects, or by global judgment (although the same aspects would be considered). These aspects are 1) the appearance of the wine, 2) the nose or smell, 3) the palate or taste, and 4) overall. Different systems weight these differently (e.g., appearance 15%, nose 35%, palate 50%). Typically, no modern wine would score less than half on any scale (which would effectively indicate an obvious fault). It is more common for wines to be scored out of 20 (including half marks) in Europe and parts of Australasia, and out of 100 in the US. However, different critics tend to have their own preferred system, and some gradings are also given out of 5 (again with half marks).


As an alcoholic drink, wine can affect the consumer’s judgment. As such, at formal tastings, where dozens of wines may be assessed, wine tasters generally spit the wine out after they have assessed its quality. However, since wine is absorbed through the skin inside the mouth, tasting from twenty to twenty-five samplings can produce an intoxicating effect, depending on the alcoholic content of the wine.

Visiting wineries

Traveling to wine regions is another way of increasing skill in tasting. Many wine producers in wine regions all over the world offer tastings of their wine. Depending on the country or region, tasting at the winery may incur a small charge to allow the producer to cover costs.

Whenever traveling to an area where you might want to visit a vineyard or winery, call first to see when you might be able to visit. This prevents arriving at a time when you cannot be accommodated.

It is not considered rude to spit out wine at a winery, even in the presence of the wine maker or owner. Generally, a spittoon will be provided. In some regions of the world, tasters simply spit on the floor or onto gravel surrounding barrels. It is polite to inquire about where to spit before beginning tasting.

Attending Wine Schools

A growing number of wine schools can be found, offering wine tasting classes to the public. These programs often help a wine taster hone and develop their abilities in a controlled setting. Some also offer professional training for sommeliers and wine makers in the art of wine tasting.

Source: Wikipedia

Red Grape Variety | Red Wines

February 12th, 2008

Wine grape varieties are variously evaluated according to a wide range of descriptors which draw comparisons with other, non-grape flavors and aromas. The following table provides a brief and by no means exhaustive summary of typical descriptors for the better-known varietals.

Red grape variety Common sensory descriptors
Cabernet Franc tobacco, green bell pepper, raspberry, new-mown grass
Cabernet Sauvignon blackcurrants, eucalyptus, chocolate, tobacco
Gamay pomegranate, strawberry, red fruits
Grenache smoky, pepper, raspberry
Malbec violet, fruit, beer
Merlot black cherry, plums, tomato
Mourvèdre thyme, clove, cinnamon, black pepper, violet, blackberry
Nebbiolo leather, tar, stewed prunes, chocolate, liquorice, roses
Norton red fruit, elderberries
Petite Sirah (Durif) earthy, black pepper, dark fruits
Petit Verdot violets (later), pencil shavings
Pinot Noir raspberry, cherry, violets, “farmyard” (with age), truffles
Pinotage bramble fruits
Sangiovese herbs, black cherry, leathery, earthy
Syrah (Shiraz) tobacco, black/white pepper, blackberry, smoke
Tempranillo vanilla, strawberry, tobacco
Teroldego spices, chocolate, red fruits
Zinfandel black cherry, pepper, mixed spices, mint

Source: Wikipedia

Red WineDec 09 (HeartCenterOnline) - A new study has identified another heart-healthy benefit to moderate red wine consumption. According to new research, a compound in red wine called resveratrol may help to prevent the effect of cardiac fibrosis.

Cardiac fibrosis is a condition that occurs when heart cells called fibroblasts are activated by diseases such as hypertension or heart failure. The fibroblasts secrete collagen, a binding protein that can reduce the pumping efficiency of the heart at high levels.

In the study, which appeared in the current edition of the American Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology, resveratrol was shown to inhibit the actions of a powerful hormone called angiotensin II, which activates fibroblasts. Angiotensin II is produced at high levels during hypertension or heart failure as the body tries to repair the damaged heart tissue. However, in most cases, angiotensin II over- stimulates the fibroblasts, leading to excessive collagen secretion.

In rat hearts, resveratrol inhibited angiotensin II’s ability to cause growth and stimulation of cardiac fibroblasts. It also prevented fibroblasts from changing into myofibroblasts, a specialized cell that secretes large amounts of collagen.

The researchers couldn’t say how much resveratrol was needed to gain these beneficial effects, but most previous studies have suggested that drinking one or two 5-ounce glasses of red wine a day may have heart protective benefits. At greater levels, the damage caused by alcohol may outweigh any health benefits conferred by the wine.

Other studies have shown that resveratrol may help prevent blood clots and possibly reduce cholesterol. This is the first study to show that resveratrol may help prevent cardiac fibrosis.

Copyright 2000-2004 HealthCentersOnline, Inc.

types-of-red-wines.jpgBy Robin Shreeves

Red wine goes with beef, right? If I stick to that rule my wine choice will be fine, won’t it?

To simplify wine in this way is to ignore the vast complexity and variety of flavor, body and bouquet. Wine by itself is complex enough to intimidate a novice, but pairing it with food can enhance your appreciation of both the food and the wine. It’s time to learn a little about red wines in general so you can make a better choice when choosing wine for a meal or for enjoyment by itself.

1. Many people consider red wines “heavy” wines while they consider white wines “light.” This isn’t necessarily true of either wine. Instead of being described as heavy, red wines are more accurately described as being “light-bodied” or “full-bodied.” The body is the texture and the weight that you will feel in your mouth and on your tongue when you drink the wine.

2. If you are going for a general rule for drinking red wines, pair light-bodied wines with lighter foods and full-bodied wines with heavier foods. Here are some of the more popular varietals of red wines listed from lighter-bodied to fuller-bodied: Merlot, Syrah/Shiraz, Chianti, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Zinfandel.

3. Yes, red wines are called red, but upon closer examination they are not merely red. They range in depth of color from a deep purple (newer wines) to browner hues (well-aged wines).

4. If a red wine seems pale in color, it may be because the grapes were damaged by weather before being processed. Wines that are uncharacteristically dark may have been exposed to oxidation. Reds that are either too pale or too dark may not be pleasant to drink.

5. Many people think that holding onto a bottle of red wine so it will age is the right thing to do for all varietals. Actually, many red wines aren’t meant to be kept for more than a few years. The rule of thumb is to drink most bottles within three years of the vintage date on the bottle.

- If you bought the bottle for under $20, there is a pretty good chance that the bottle was meant to be drunk sooner rather than later.
- Some red wines that will improve with age when stored under proper conditions are Port, Bordeaux and Burgundy, as well as some Cabernet Sauvignon. If you are unsure about when you could optimally enjoy a particular bottle, find an expert to ask.

6. When it comes to pairing red wines with food, the increasingly accepted rule is to drink whatever wine you like with any particular food. Pairing your red wine with food according to body and flavors has been raised to an art form. If a wine has a sweet flavor, then pairing it with slightly sweet foods can work well. If the wine has the flavor of herbs, serving it with foods cooked with the same herb flavors can make the experience enjoyable. On the other hand, pairing food and wine that demonstrate contrasting flavors can be exciting as well. When doing so you keep the tastes fresh and alive in your mouth. Regardless of your choices, paying attention to the acidity, fruitiness, and such general flavors of wine will help you develop a better sense for how the wines will pair with food. Food can often mask a previously dominant flavor in a wine, revealing subtleties you never knew existed.

7. Those of us who have little experience with wine may feel lost in a sea of varietals and want more specific guidance when beginning their wine pairing adventures. Here are some of the more popular red wines and foods they generally pair well with:

- Merlot: Merlot is a very popular wine right now because it is light- to medium-bodied and pairs well with many foods such as beef, strong cheese, game, veal, lamb, pastas with red and creamy red sauces, heavy seafoods, and BBQ chicken and pork.
- Chianti: Chianti is a classic wine to pair with Italian meals. It also works well with steak and even poultry.
- Shiraz/Syrah: Shiraz and Syrah are the same grape, but they are called different names in different regions. They pair well with heavy foods such as BBQ’s, steak and spicy dishes.
- Cabernet Sauvignon: This is a good wine to choose if you are having a steak dinner. It also works well with strong cheeses, lamb and heavy pastas.

8. One way to learn more about red wine is to join a wine club. You can join clubs such as the one on that will send you a certain number of bottles per month for you to taste. There are also local wine clubs where members gather and share bottles of wine and advice about wine. By joining either type of club, you will definitely gain knowledge and benefit from the experience of others.

9. You can learn a lot about red wine from visiting wine websites and wine blogs. One blog from USA Today offers information on good, reasonably priced wines, and you can even sort out the blog entries on red wine from the rest of the advice. In addition, magazines such as Food and Wine or Wine Spectator are full of information.

10. The best way to learn about red wines is to try a lot different varieties and see which ones you like!

Quick Tips:

To learn more about red wine, consider taking a wine appreciation class at a local adult night school or at a wine store. Many of them offer classes for beginners at very reasonable rates.

If there is a winery near you, inquire as to whether they offer tours or have a tasting room. If they do, plan a visit. You can learn a lot in one afternoon at a winery.

Source: How to do things

Types of Red Wines

February 12th, 2008

Dark Grapes | Red WinesBy Tom Beard and Anthony Hawkins

The type of grape used in winemaking determines the variety of wine produced. Here’s a guide to the classic grape varieties around the world:

BARBAROSSA [Bar-bar-Roh-sa]

Red wine variety found in Italy, France and surrounding Balkan region. Used to make an aromatic, robust varietal wine with moderate aging potential.


Semi-classic grape commonly grown in the Piedmont region and most of northern Italy. Was probably imported into the U.S.A. late in the 19th century. Usually produces an intense red wine with deep color, low tannins and high acid and is used in California to provide “backbone” for so-called “jug” wines. Century-old vines still exist in many regional vineyards and allow production of long-aging, robust red wines with intense fruit and enhanced tannic content. Plantings in North America are mostly confined to the warm western coastal regions.

CABERNET FRANC [Cah-burr-NAY Frahnk]

Purple Grapes | Red WinesOne of the parent grape varieties that gave rise to the Cabernet Sauvignon. Mainly found in cooler, damper climatic conditions than its offspring. Widely grown in the Loire region of southwest France. Bordeaux wines commonly contain a blend of both Cabernet varietal wines, a practice increasingly being followed in California and elsewhere. Wine from these grapes has a deep purple color, when young, with a herbaceous aroma. Just like Cabernet Sauvignon.


A “noble” grape famous as one of the main varieties, along with Merlot, Cabernet Franc and others used to create the magnificent French Bordeaux region blended red wines. The most successful plantings in North America are mainly on Long Island (N.Y.) and the cooler regions of northern California. In the warmer regions of California, grapes made into a single varietal wine will often produce higher than optimum levels of alcohol due to high sugar content and, conversely, lower than optimum acid levels in most years and so may tend to age less successfully than the blended french versions. Many other countries have seen their regions develop into prime producers - Argentina, Chile, Italy and New Zealand).

CARMENÈRE [kar-men-nar]
Red Grapes | Red Wines
Very limited plantings of this red wine grape are now found in the Médoc region of Bordeaux, France where it is used to produce deep red wines occasionally used for blending purposes. The worlds largest vineyard area under cultivation of this variety is now found in the Santiago region of Chile, South America. Some claim that, in Chile, some individual plantings of this variety has been mistakenly labeled as Merlot due to certain similarities.


Grown in the Piedmont region of Italy and used to make both dry and spumante-style sweet red wines. (Sparking wine)


At least three different vitis vinifera grape species are permitted to use the term “Gamay” as their label-specified variety in the U.S.A. The Gamay Noir, Gamay Beaujolais and Napa Gamay. At one time or another each one was thought to be the true Pinot Noir variety of Burgundy before it was determined that many cepage clones existed.


According to investigations by Dr. Olmo of Davis U. the Gamay Beaujolais variety is a widely grown, early-ripening clone of Pinot Noir that can do well in the temperate climates of the northwest U.S. and if picked promptly will produce a good red wine.


Alternate name for the Grenache grape in Spain.


Rose Grapes | Red WinesAlso confusingly known under the synonym names Alicante in the south of France and Guarnaccia in the Ischia DOC, Campania, Italy. It should not be confused with the shortened name for the late nineteenth century cross Alicante Bouschet. Grenache is currently widely grown in Spain, (where it is known under the name Garnacha), the south of France and also in California. Is now believed to be descended from the grape named Cannonau, an ancient variety widely grown in Sardinia. It is the main grape used in the red wine blend known as Chateauneuf-du-Pape and, along with the Mourvèdre, Cinsaut and some others, makes good wine blends under the appellation “Cotes du Rhone Villages”. In the warmer regions of California the Grenache grape tends to produce pale red wines that are mainly useful for blends. Older vines give juice that produces a creditable varietal. Often “hot” due to high alcohol content and with a distinctive orange colored tint. Also used to make some of the better rosé wines of Provence in southern France.


Semi-classic grape grown in the Bordeaux region of France and in other areas under the names Médoc Noir, Côt or Pressac, while in the Alsace it has the local name Auxerrois. Also grown in the cooler regions of California. The vine is widely planted in Argentina where it is being used to produce very popular varietal wines. As a varietal it creates a rather intense, inky, red wine so it is also commonly used in blends, such as with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, to create the renowned red French Bordeaux “claret” blend. In California and other areas it is increasingly being used for the same blending purpose.


Classic grape widely grown in the Bordeaux region of France and elsewhere. The red wine bears a resemblance to Cabernet Sauvignon wine, with which it is sometimes blended, but is usually not so intense, with softer tannins. Matures earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon, with mid-late ripening. Moderate cold-hardiness. In California it is a popular varietal on its own and also as a percentage constituent of the red wine blend resembling Bordeaux claret called “Meritage”. It does extremely well in the state of Washington and shows great promise on Long Island, N.Y. Results in the Finger Lakes region of N.Y., where it ripens in early October, have been mixed due its relative lack of cold-hardiness and the fruit subject to bunch rots. Recently some have claimed that many of the labeled Chilean varietal wines are actually of the Carmenère variety. Other countries such as Argentina and New Zealand also seem to have a suitable climate for this variety.


Another family of clone varieties, making both red and white wines. Most are of the muscat type, having the unique aromatic character commonly associated with muscat wines. These include the Muscat Blanc, Muscadel, Moscato di Canelli. These clones are mostly used for making medium-sweet and dessert style table or fortified wines. Small acreages of Orange Muscat in the Central Valley of California allow a local variation of this wine to be made by at least one producer, a situation that also occurs in Australia. Hot climate producers of sparkling wines often use the various Muscat grape clones to create wines in the style of Italian Spumante.

NEBBIOLO [nehb-bee-OH-loh]

Grape responsible for the long-lived, fine red wines of the Piedmont region of Italy. The role of honor includes traditionally vinified “Barolo”, “Gattinara”, “Barbaresco” and “Ghemme”; all huge, tannic wines that at their best can take decades to mature.


Historically has been something of a “mystery” vine. When first imported into California this variety somehow acquired the subject name possibly as a result of a labeling error confusing it with Petite Syrah. Traditional Californian wine blends under the name of Petite Sirah produce dark red, tannic wines in the warmer regions of California, used mainly as backbone for Central Valley “jug” wines. In the cooler northern regions, where many very old vines still exist, it is often made into a robust, balanced red wine of considerable popularity.


The premier grape of the Burgundy region of France, producing a red wine that is lighter in color than the Bordeaux reds such as the Cabernet’s or Merlot. It has proved to be a capriciously acting and difficult grape for N. American wineries, best results being obtained in cool, fog-liable regions such as the Carneros region of northern California. The worlds best “quality” wines are reputed to result from a mixing of suitable clones; a common practice in Burgundy, France. Cherished aromas and flavors often detected in varietal wines include cherry, mint, and raspberry.


This grape has been widely grown and successful in South Africa since its release in 1925. Also currently grown in Brazil, Canada, California (USA), Virginia (USA) and Zimbabwe. Also grown in some quantity on New Zealand’s North Island where it is used to produce flavorsome, early-maturing wines that are considerably less concentrated or complex than South African versions.


Synonym name of the Pinot Gris where grown in Italy. Planted extensively in the Venezia and Alto-Adige regions where it can produce crisp, dry wines with good acid “bite”.


(Pronounced “sahn-joe-veh-zeh”). Semi-classic grape grown in the Tuscany region of Italy. Used to produce the Chianti and other Tuscan red wines. Has many clonal versions, two of which seem to predominate. The Sangiovese Grosso clone Brunello variety is used for the dark red, traditionally powerful and slow-maturing “Brunello di Montalcino” wine. The other is the Sangiovese Piccolo, also known under the historical synonym name Sangioveto, used for standard Chianti Classico DOC wines. Old vine derived wine is often used in the better versions, needing several years aging to reach peak. A third clone, Morellino, is used in a popular wine blend with the same name found in the southern part of the province. Recent efforts in California with clones of this variety are very promising, producing medium-bodied reds with rich cherry or plumlike flavors and aromas.


Alternate name for the french Syrah clone grape grown in Australia and responsible for very big red wines that are not quite as intense in flavor as the french Rhone versions. In the past it was also known under the alias name Hermitage.


A grape variety associated with the Rhone Valley region of France, famous for creating “Hermitage” red wine. In southern France some regard the grape as taking two forms, the Grosse Syrah and Petite Syrah, distinguished only by berry size. Experts reject this distinction but it has in the past led some wine producers in North and South America to mistake California vineyard plantings of Petite Sirah, which produces a very dark red and tannic wine judged simple in comparison to the true Rhone Syrah, as the latter grape. DNA analysis has now shown (Meredith C.P., et al., “Am. J. Enol. Vitic.” 50(3): 236-42 1999) there is in fact a probable cross-variety relationship. In the cooler regions of Australia a (presumed) clone of the Rhone variety, once known as the Scyras, is grown very successfully and now known as Shiraz. In the state of California, depending on location, vintage or fermentation technique, the grape is used to either produce a spicy, complex wine or a simple wine. Considerable acreage is grown in South Africa, and also in Argentina where it has historically been called the Balsamina grape until the late 1960’s.

TEMPRANILLO [Temp-rah-NEE-yoh]

Fine winegrape used in best quality red wines of Spain. Also known under the alias name of Cencibel in La Mancha and as Ull de Llebre in Catalonia. Has over thirty synonym names listed in the Geilweilerhof database (see above). Some other reported versions that exist are the Tinto Fino of the Zamora region, Tinta del Pais of the Ribero del Duero and Tinta de Toro in the Toro region. In Portugal the grape is known as the (Tinta) Roriz and Aragonez. Large acreages are grown in Argentina. Also found in the Central Valley of California where it is known as Valdepeñas and mainly used to make grapejuice much favored by home-winemakers sold under the “Valdepenas” name in N. America.


Still grown in France, where it is better known as Savagnin Blanc, and in California but almost everywhere else has been largely replaced by its much more intense and aromatic offspring Gewürztraminer clonal variety. The subject name is still used in Australia as an alias name for Gewürztraminer and, confusingly, is also known there under the synonym name Savagnin Rose.

TREBBIANO [Treb-bee-AH-no]

Alternate name for Ugni Blanc grape - see below. Has many mutations/sub-varieties such as Procanico etc where found in Tuscany and Umbria, Italy.


An important grape variety, also thought to be the variety once known as Black St. Peter in early 19th century California lore, currently grown in California and used to produce robust red wine as well as very popular “blush wines” called “white Zinfandel”. The oldest vines found in the Dry Creek and Amador regions are notable for their ability to produce superior juice; eg. the “Bevill-Mazzoni” clone from the Dry Creek appellation was recently reported (7/2000) as yielding excellent results even as a young vine. Zinfandel is noted for the fruit-laden, berry-like aroma and prickly taste characteristics in its red version and pleasant strawberry reminders when made into a “blush” wine. While its origins are not clear it has been positively identified, via DNA analysis at UC Davis (California), as the Primitivo (di Gioia), a variety grown in Apulia, southern Italy. According to an Italian report of 1996 the latter variety may have a relationship to members of the Vranac variety cépage grown in Montenegro, the state that, combined with Serbia, constitutes what remains of the former Yugoslavia. Other contenders were certain mutated members of the Mali Plavac, (a.k.a Plavac Mali), cépage varieties which are mainly grown in the coastal area known as Dalmatia, a province of Croatia recently a part of the former Yugoslavia and located just across the Adriatic sea from the shores of Italian Apulia. Research is presently (7/98) underway to explore possible relationships. The origin of the grapename “Zinfandel” in California is currently not known but is thought by some to be a corruption of Zierfandler, a completely unrelated white variety still grown in the Balkan region of Europe. It has been noted that mid-19th century catalogs mention a red (ie. “roter”) mutation of that variety. A plausible hypothesis is that a naming error arose due to attribution and shipping mistakes made during unreliable early-19th century transport and handling to New World destinations.

Article © 2002-2006,

History of Wine | Red Wines

February 11th, 2008

Wine Boy at a Symposium | Red WinesThe history of wine spans thousands of years and is closely intertwined with the history of agriculture, cuisine, civilization and man himself.

Archaeological evidence suggests that the earliest wine production came from sites in Georgia and Iran, dating from 6000 to 5000 BC. The archaeological evidence becomes clearer, and points to domestication of grapevine, in Early Bronze Age sites of the Near East, Sumer and Egypt from around the third millennium BC.

Evidence of the earliest European wine production has been uncovered at archaeological sites in Greece, dated to 6,500 years ago. These same sites also contain remnants of the world’s earliest evidence of crushed grapes. In Egypt, wine became a part of recorded history, playing an important role in ancient ceremonial life. Traces of wine dating from the second and first millennium BC have also been found in China.

Wine was common in classical Greece and Rome and many of the major wine producing regions of Western Europe today were established with Phoenician and later Roman plantations. Wine making technology improved considerably during the time of the Roman Empire; many grape varieties and cultivation techniques were known and barrels were developed for storing and shipping wine.

In medieval Europe, following the decline of Rome and therefore of widespread wine production, the Christian Church was a staunch supporter of the wine necessary for celebration of the Catholic Mass. In places such as Germany, beer was banned and considered pagan and barbaric, while wine consumption was viewed as civilized and a sign of conversion. Whereas wine was also forbidden in medieval Islamic cultures, Geber and other Muslim chemists pioneered the distillation of wine for medicinal purposes and its use in Christian libation was widely tolerated. Wine production gradually increased and its consumption became popularized from the 15th century onwards, surviving the devastating Phylloxera louse of the 1870s and eventually establishing growing regions throughout the world.


1 Early history
2 Ancient Greece
3 Ancient Egypt
4 Roman Empire
5 Ancient China
6 Islamic Middle East
7 Medieval Europe
8 Developments in Europe
9 Wine in the New World
10 Outside the Americas

Early history

Mei (Persian Wine) - Red WinesWine residue has been identified by Patrick McGovern’s team at the University Museum, Pennsylvania, in ancient pottery jars. Records include ceramic jars from the Neolithic sites at Shulaveri, of present-day Georgia (about 6000 BC) [13], Hajji Firuz Tepe in the Zagros Mountains of present-day Iran (5400–5000 BC)[14],[15] and from Late Uruk (3500–3100 BC) occupation at the site of Uruk, in Mesopotamia [1]. The identifications are based on the identification of tartaric acid and tartrate salts using a form of infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR). These identifications are regarded with caution by some biochemists because of the risk of false positives, particularly where complex mixtures of organic materials, and degradation products, may be present. The identifications have not yet been replicated in other laboratories.

In his book Ancient Wine: The Search for the Origins of Viniculture (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003), McGovern argues that the domestication of the Eurasian wine grape and winemaking could have originated on the territory of modern Georgia and spread south from there.

In Iran (Persia), mei (the Persian wine) has been a central theme of poetry for more than a thousand years, although alcohol is strictly forbidden in Islam.Little is actually known of the prehistory of wine. It is plausible that early foragers and farmers made alcoholic beverages from wild fruits, including wild grapes (Vitis silvestris). This would have become easier following the development of pottery vessels in the later Neolithic of the Near East, about 9000 years ago. However, wild grapes are small and sour, and relatively rare at archaeological sites. It is unlikely they could have been the basis of a wine industry.

Domesticated grapes were abundant in the Near East from the beginning of the Early Bronze Age, starting in 3200 BC. There is also increasingly abundant evidence for wine making in Sumer and Egypt in the third millennium BC. The ancient Chinese made wine from native wild “mountain grapes” like Vitis thunbergii for a time, until they imported domesticated grape seeds from Central Asia in the second century. Grapes were, of course, also an important food. There is scant evidence for earlier domestication of grape, in the form of grape pips from Chalcolithic Tell Shuna in Jordan, but this evidence remains unpublished.

Exactly where wine was first made is still unclear. It could have been anywhere in the vast region, stretching from North Africa to Central/South Asia, where wild grapes grow. However, the first large-scale production of wine must have been in the region where grapes were first domesticated, Southern Caucasus and the Near East. Wild grapes grow in Georgia, northern Levant, coastal and southeastern Turkey, northern Iran or Armenia. None of these areas can, as yet, be definitively singled out, despite persistent suggestions that Georgia is the birthplace of wine.

Ancient Greece

Much modern wine culture derives from the practices of the ancient Greeks. While the exact arrival of wine in Greek territory is unknown, it was certainly known to both the Minoan and Mycenaean cultures. Many of the grapes grown in modern Greece are grown there exclusively and are similar or identical to varieties grown in ancient times. Indeed, the popular modern Greek wine, retsina, is believed to be a carryover from when wine jugs were lined with tree resin, which imparted a distinct flavor to the wine.

Evidence from archaeological sites in Greece, in the form of 6,500 year-old grape remnants, represents the earliest known appearance of wine production in Europe. Several Greek sources, such as Pliny the Elder, describe the ancient Greek method of using partly dehydrated gypsum before fermentation, and some type of lime after fermentation, to reduce acidity. The Greek writer Theophrastus provides the oldest known description of this aspect of Greek wine making.

Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and revelry and wine and frequently referred to in the works of Homer and Aesop, was sometimes given the epithet Acratophorus, by which he was designated as the giver of unmixed wine. In Homeric mythology wine is usually served in “mixing bowls” – it was not traditionally consumed in an undiluted state – and was referred to as “Juice of the Gods.” Dinonysus was also known as Bacchus and the frenzy he induces, bakcheia.

Greek wine was widely known and exported throughout the Mediterranean basin, as amphorae with Greek styling and art have been found throughout the area, and was most likely the origin of the first appearance of wine in ancient Egypt. The Greeks introduced the Vitis vinifera vine and made wine in their numerous colonies in modern-day Italy, Sicily, southern France, and Spain.

Ancient Egypt

18th century BC wine vessel | Red WinesA wine vessel from the 18th century BCIn Egypt, wine played an important role in ancient ceremonial life. A thriving royal winemaking industry was established in the Nile Delta following the introduction of grape cultivation from the Levant to Egypt c. 3000 BC. The industry was most likely the result of trade between Egypt and Canaan during the Early Bronze Age, commencing from at least the Third Dynasty (2650–2575 BC), the beginning of the Old Kingdom period (2650–2152 BC). Winemaking scenes on tomb walls, and the offering lists that accompanied them, included wine that was definitely produced at the deltaic vineyards. By the end of the Old Kingdom, five wines, all probably produced in the Delta, constitute a canonical set of provisions, or fixed “menu,” for the afterlife.

Wine in ancient Egypt was predominantly red. A recent discovery, however, has revealed the first ever evidence of white wine in ancient Egypt. Residue from five clay amphorae from Pharaoh Tutankhamun’s tomb yielded traces of white wine. Finds in nearby containers led the same study to establish that Shedeh, the most precious drink in ancient Egypt, was made from red grapes, not pomegranates as previously thought.

Outside Egypt, much of the ancient Middle East preferred beer as a daily drink rather than wine, a taste likely inherited from the Sumerians. However, wine was well-known, especially near the Mediterranean coast, and figures prominently in the ritual life of the Jewish people going back to the earliest known records of the faith; the Tanakh mentions it prominently in many locations as both a boon and a curse, and wine drunkenness serves as a major theme in a number of Bible stories.

Much superstition surrounded wine-drinking in early Egyptian times, largely due to its resemblance to blood. In Plutarch’s Moralia he mentions that, prior to the reign of Psammetichus, the ancient Kings did not drink wine, “nor use it in libation as something dear to the gods, thinking it to be the blood of those who had once battled against the gods and from whom, when they had fallen and had become commingled with the earth, they believed vines to have sprung.” This was considered to be the reason why drunkenness “drives men out of their senses and crazes them, inasmuch as they are then filled with the blood of their forbears.”

Roman Empire

Main article: Ancient Rome and wine
The Roman Empire had an immense impact on the development of viticulture and oenology. Wine was an integral part of the Roman diet and wine making became a precise business.

As the Roman Empire expanded, wine production in the provinces grew to the point where the provinces were competing with Roman wines. Virtually all of the major wine producing regions of Western Europe today were established by the Romans.

Wine making technology improved considerably during the time of the Roman Empire. Many grape varieties and cultivation techniques were developed and barrels and bottles began to be used for storing and shipping wine and bottles. The Romans also created an early form of appellation system, as certain regions gained reputations for their fine wines.

Wine, perhaps mixed with herbs and minerals, was assumed to serve medicinal purposes. During Roman times it was not uncommon to dissolve pearls in wine for better health. Cleopatra created her own legend by promising Marc Anthony she would “drink the value of a province” in one cup of wine, after which she drank an expensive pearl with a cup of wine.[21] When the Roman Empire fell around 500 AD, Europe went into a period known as the Dark Ages. This was a period of invasions and social turmoil. The only stable social structure was the Catholic Church. Through the Church, grape growing and wine making technology was preserved during this period.

Ancient China

Chinese Jar | Red Wines An ancient lidded jar from the Anyang region of China is thought to have contained wine 3,000 years ago. Pieces of even older pottery vessels show evidence that they once held a fermented drink, possibly wine.

Following Zhang Qian’s exploration of the country’s western region in the 2nd century BCE, high quality grapes were introduced into China and Chinese grape wine (called putao jiu in Chinese) was first produced.

Islamic Middle East

Ahmad Y Hassan wrote:

“The distillation of wine and the properties of alcohol were known to Islamic chemists from the eighth century. The prohibition of wine in Islam did not mean that wine was not produced or consumed or that Arab alchemists did not subject it to their distillation processes. Jabir ibn Hayyan described a cooling technique which can be applied to the distillation of alcohol.”

Wine was forbidden in the Islamic civilization, but after Geber and other Muslim chemists pioneered the distillation of wine it was used for other purposes, including cosmetic and medical uses. The 10th century Persian philosopher and scientist Al Biruni described a number of recipes where herbs, minerals and even gemstones are mixed with wine for medicinal purposes. Wine was so revered and its effect so feared that elaborate theories were developed which gemstone-cups would best counteract its negative side effects.

Medieval Europe

In the Middle Ages, wine was the common drink of all social classes in the south, where grapes were cultivated. In the north, where little or no grapes were grown, mead,beer and ale were the common drink of both commoners and nobility, whereas vodka and related spirits predominated in much of the East. Wine was imported to the northern regions, but was expensive, and thus seldom consumed by the lower classes. Wine was necessary for the celebration of the Catholic Mass, and so assuring a supply was crucial. The Benedictine monks became one of the largest producers of wine in France and Germany, followed closely by the Cistercians. Other orders, such as the Carthusians, the Templars, and the Carmelites, are also notable both historically and in modern times as wine producers. The Benedictines owned vineyards in Champagne (Dom Perignon was a Benedictine monk), Burgundy, and Bordeaux in France and in the Rheingau and Franconia in Germany. In 1435 Count John IV. of Katzenelnbogen, a very rich member of the holy roman high nobility near Frankfurt, was the first to plant Riesling the most important grape of Germany. Nearby the winemaking monks made it into an industry, producing enough wine to ship it all over Europe for secular use. In Portugal, a country with one of the oldest wine traditions, the first appellation system in the world was created.

A housewife of the merchant class or a servant in a noble household would have served wine at every meal, and had a selection of reds and whites alike. Home recipes for meads from this period are still in existence, along with recipes for spicing and masking flavors in wines, including the simple act of adding a small amount of honey to the wine. As wines were kept in barrels, they were not extensively aged, and therefore were drunk quite young. To offset the effects of heavy consumption of alcohol, wine was frequently watered down at a ratio of four or five parts water to one of wine.

One medieval application of wine was the use of snake-stones (banded Agate resembling the figural rings on a snake) dissolved in wine against snake bites, which shows an early understanding of the effects of alcohol on the central nervous system in such situations.

Developments in Europe

The Phylloxera louse brought devastation to vines and wine production in Europe. It brought catastrophe for all those whose lives depended on wine. The repercussions were widespread, including the loss of many indigenous varieties. On the positive side, it led to the transformation of Europe’s vineyards. Only the fittest survived. Bad vineyards were uprooted and better uses were found for the land. Some of France’s best butter and cheese, for example, is now made from cows that graze on Charentais soil which was previously covered with vines. “Curvées” were also standardised. This was particularly important in creating certain wines as we know know them today — Champagne and Bordeaux finally achieved the grape mix which defines them today. In the Balkans where phylloxera did not hit, the local varieties survived but along with Ottoman occupation the transformation of vineyards has been slow. It is only now that local varieties are getting to be known beyond the “mass” wines like Retsina.

Wine in the New World

Grapes and wheat were first brought to what is now Latin America by the first Spanish conquistadores to provide the necessities of the Catholic Holy Eucharist. Planted at Spanish missions, one variety came to be known as the Mission grapes and is still planted today in small amounts. Succeeding waves of immigrants imported French, Italian and German grapes, although wine from grapes native to the Americas is also produced (though often deemed an acquired taste, since the flavors can be very different).

Wine in the Americas is most closely associated with Argentina, California and Chile, all of which produce a wide variety of wines from inexpensive jug wines to high-quality varieties and proprietary blends. While most of the wine production in the Americas is based on Old World varieties, the wine growing regions of the Americas often have “adopted” grapes that are particularly closely identified with them, such as California’s Zinfandel (from Croatia), Argentina’s Malbec, and Chile’s Carmenère (both from France).

Until the latter half of the 20th century, American wine was generally looked upon as inferior to European product; it was not until the surprising American showing at the Paris Wine tasting of 1976 that New World wine began to gain respect in the lands of wine’s origins.

Outside the Americas

For wine purposes, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and other countries without a wine tradition are also considered New World. Until quite late in the 20th century, the product of these countries was not well known outside their small export markets (Australia exported largely to the United Kingdom, New Zealand kept most of its wine internally, South Africa was closed off to much of the world market because of apartheid). However, with the increase in mechanization and scientific winemaking, these countries became known for high quality wine.

Source: Wikipedia

Cancer Prevention and Red Wine

February 11th, 2008

Red wine is a rich source of biologically active phytochemicals, chemicals found in plants. Particular compounds called polyphenols found in red wine, such as catechins and resveratrol, are thought to have anti oxidant or anti cancer properties.

What are polyphenols and how do they prevent cancer?

Polyphenols | Red WinesPolyphenols are antioxidant compounds found in the skin and seeds of grapes. When wine is made from these grapes, the alcohol produced by the fermentation process dissolves the polyphenols contained in the skin and seeds. Red wine contains more polyphenols than white wine because the making of white wine requires the removal of the skins after the grapes are crushed. The phenols in red wine include catechin, gallic acid, and epicatechin.

Polyphenols have been found to have antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are substances that protect cells from oxidative damage caused by molecules called free radicals. These chemicals can damage important parts of cells, including proteins, membranes, and DNA. Cellular damage caused by free radicals has been implicated in the development of cancer. Research on the antioxidants found in red wine has shown that they may help inhibit the development of certain cancers.

What is resveratrol and how does it prevent cancer?

Resveratrol | Red Wines Resveratrol is a type of polyphenol called a phytoalexin, a class of compounds produced as part of a plant’s defense system against disease. It is produced in the plant in response to an invading fungus, stress, injury, infection, or ultraviolet irradiation. Red wine contains high levels of resveratrol, as do grapes, raspberries, peanuts, and other plants.

Resveratrol has been shown to reduce tumor incidence in animals by affecting one or more stages of cancer development. It has been shown to inhibit growth of many types of cancer cells in culture. Evidence also exists that it can reduce inflammation. It also reduces activation of NF kappa B, a protein produced by the body’s immune system when it is under attack. This protein affects cancer cell growth and metastasis. Resveratrol is also an antioxidant.

What have red wine studies found?

The cell and animal studies of red wine have examined effects in several cancers including leukemia, skin , breast, and prostate cancers . Scientists are studying resveratrol to learn more about its cancer preventive activities. Recent evidence from animal studies suggests this anti-inflammatory compound may be an effective chemopreventive agent in three stages of the cancer process: initiation, promotion, and progression.

However, studies of the association between red wine consumption and cancer in humans are in their initial stages. Although consumption of large amounts of alcoholic beverages may increase the risk of some cancers, there is growing evidence that the health benefits of red wine are related to its nonalcoholic components.

For more information, please visit the following areas:
- Nutrition Center
- Cancer Center

Portions of the above information has been provided with the kind permission of the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health (

Red Wine Glass | Red Wines
Article by Stuart J. Adams, Nutritionist , Author and Speaker


Most well-designed population studies have demonstrated a ‘J curve’ relationship between wine consumption and the risk of cardiovascular disease. [1-5] This means that people who do not drink alcohol at all (abstainers) and those who consume more than 30 g/day of alcohol (approx 2.5 standard drink)s have an increase risk of death from all causes, higher blood pressure levels as well as poorer liver function.

On the other hand, moderate alcohol intake (1-2 drinks/day) is associated with decreased Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) risk in both men and women. Small daily doses seem to have a more protective effect than an equal single daily dose. Moderate doses of alcoholic beverages also have a protective effect in individuals who have already suffered a myocardial infarct (heart attack), by reducing the risk of subsequent heart attacks. This observed J–shape relationship is especially consistent among drinkers of red wine. This association gained particular attention amongst the French population, because despite their high intake of saturated fats and other particularly unhealthy foods, their rate of heart disease was relatively low due to their wine intake; a phenomenon known as the “French paradox” . [6]

Red wine possesses several potentially heart-healthy mechanisms, including favorable effect on blood clotting, endothelial function and serum lipids (most notably the ability to raise levels of HDL ‘good’ cholesterol).

The cardio-protective effects observed in red wine drinkers are thought to be attributed at least in part to the moderate alcohol intake, but especially due the polyphenolic compounds red wine possesses; most notably, a flavonoid called resveratrol. Laboratory studies have revealed that resveratrol possesses several cardio-protective actions as well as cancer-protective effects. This may explain why some population studies have found a slight decrease in the risk of some cancers among moderate red wine drinkers.

It is very important to note however that higher alcohol consumption significantly increases the risk of many cancers; especially breast cancer in women. Along with smoking and obesity, alcohol consumption is perhaps the most significant lifestyle factor known to increase the risk of cancer, as well as other diseases such as liver problems.

Consequently, 1 to 2 glasses of red wine (with a meal) for men and 1 glass for women, several days of the week, may help to fight heart disease. Any more than that however may be doing more harm than good.

Red Wine & Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors

Wine, Beer, Spirits Intake - Red WinesWine & CHD: Epidemiology

A prospective cohort study following 6,051 men and 7,234 women, 30-70 years of age for 10-12 years, showed a significant decreased risk for Coronary Artery Disease among wine drinkers. Compared to non-wine drinkers, people who consumed several glasses of wine per day had a 50% reduced risk of death from all causes. The intake of beer or spirits however was not associated with risk reduction. (figure 1)[7]

A recent case-control study conducted in Spain also found that a moderate alcohol intake, particularly from wine, significantly decreased the risk of heart attacks.[8]

A meta-analysis of 13 epidemiological studies which examined the association between wine intake and cardiovascular disease (11 on Coronary Heart Disease and 2 on Stroke) among over 201 thousand people was published in 2002.[9]

The results showed that moderate wine drinkers had a 32% average decreased risk of cardiovascular disease compared to non-drinkers. A J-shaped curve was observed for the relation between wine and cardiovascular disease risk, as very heavy consumption increased the risk in a linear fashion. The same meta-analysis looked at 15 studies examining the risk in relation to beer drinking, however the results were less consistent.
Wine Intake | Red Wines
Figure 2. shows the Relative Risks or Odds Ratios for different categories of wine intake (dose-response curves), as reported by the original investigators. The black line indicates the predicted model using data from all studies.
Relative Risk | Red Wines
Ten of the 13 studies showed a dose-response relationship between wine intake and Cardiovascular Disease (7 on CHD and 3 on Stroke) involving a total of 176,042 people. When only the 7 prospective cohort studies were considered, a more evident inverse relationship was found and this was used to construct the average dose-response curve in Figure 3. [The best fitting model was used to construct an average dose-response curve.]

Although a maximum reduction was predicted at 750 mL/day,(equivelant to 1 bottle of wine), statistical significance was only reached up to the amount of 150 mL/day. (1.5 glasses) This is shown by the vertical lines which represent 95% confidence intervals. This basically means that although the average highest protection was found to be approx 750 ml / day, the ranges at this level were very large, therefore only the smaller doses were considered to be a more reliable source because the highest and lowest ranges of risk were not so extreme.

Mechanisms: How Red Wine Protects Against Atherosclerosis

HDL “good”Cholesterol

Alcohol, particularly red wine, has been shown to be able to increase serum concentrations of HDL “good” cholesterol.[20] This was first discovered when a 69 year old man in Germany who had a family history of high “bad” cholesterol, was found to have significantly high levels of HDL “good” cholesterol. Even though he was nearly 70 years old, he showed no signs of atherosclerosis. Knowing that the man was a heavy drinker of red wine, his physicians asked him to stop drinking for 21 days, and then go back to his usual drinking habits for an additional 21 days. They tested his blood throughout this time to see whether any significant changes occurred. During the time he stopped drinking, his HDL “good” cholesterol levels reduced to almost one quarter of what they were to begin with. After he began drinking as per usual again, they went back up to what they were to begin with. It appeared that this mans red wine drinking was causing his high HDL levels which protected him from developing atherosclerosis. [21]

Since then, a multitude of studies have been performed both in animals and humans to examine the relationship between alcohol, wine and particularly red wine in relation to cholesterol levels, atherosclerosis as well as other risks and protective effects associated with heart disease.

A 3-week long study involving premenopausal women on the contraceptive pill and postmenopausal women investigated the effect of red wine consumption with dinner on serum lipoprotein levels. Red grape juice (non-fermented) was used as a control. The results showed that after wine consumption, the overall HDL “good” cholesterol level was increased in postmenopausal women, whilst the LDL “bad” cholesterol levels were reduced in premenopausal women as compared with those who received only grape juice. [22] Another 2-week long study involving 20 healthy males found that red wine, but not white wine, significantly increased HDL levels by 26% and increased plasma apolipoprotein A-I levels by 12%. [23]

Several other human trials have shown that red wine consumption increases the levels of HDL “good” cholesterol, [24] including a study involving 10 males between 18 – 21 years old with normal cholesterol status that drank no other alcohol than red wine for 4 weeks. The results showed HDL levels were increased by 25%.[25]

Studies in France have also found that drinkers of red wine have higher levels of HDL “good” cholesterol and apolipoprotein A1 ( a substance found in HDL known to prevent the accumulation of cholesterol loaded white blood cells which deposit on the arterial wall as “foam cells”; a prominent early feature of atherosclerotic lesion formation ) than non-drinkers.[26]

Effect on Vascular Endothelium

Another important process in the development of atherosclerosis is the proliferation of smooth muscle cells from the outer layer of the arteries into the inner layer called the tunic intima. This causes the arteries to narrow and lose their elasticity which leads to formation of atherosclerotic plaques and eventually blocks the arteries. This proliferation occurs when platelets secrete a substance called Platelet Derived Growth Factor (PDGF). Studies in vitro have found that red wine but not white wine, has a beneficial effect on these vascular smooth muscle cells by interfering with the biochemical pathways involved in PDGF, thus having a protective effect by preventing smooth muscle cell proliferation and consequently slowing the development of atherosclerosis. Importantly, the concentrations of red wine shown to inhibit the PDGFR in vitro are similar to levels likely to be found in human blood after red wine consumption.[27]

A recent study had 14 patients with coronary artery disease (CAD) consume either white or red wine with a light meal so that the function of the inner layer of their arteries (endothelium) could be assessed. Endothelial dysfunction has been implicated as a key event in the pathogenesis (causation) of atherosclerosis and myocardial ischaemia (heart attack).[28] After several hours, endothelial function improved nearly three fold from both red and white wine compared with no wine (cordial was used as a control).[29]

An 8-week long randomized crossover trial in Italy investigated the effect of moderate red wine intake on cardiovascular disease risk factors using 48 men and women between 35-65 years old. The results showed that red wine consumption had significant beneficial effects on all the risk factors assessed. Red wine consumption significantly increased HDL “good” cholesterol, decreased the ratio between LDL/HDL (bad and good cholesterol) and increased apolipoprotein A1 ( a substance found in HDL known to prevent the accumulation of cholesterol loaded macrophages which deposit on the arterial wall as foam cells; a prominent early feature of atherosclerotic lesion formation ). Moreover, red wine consumption caused significant decreases in fibrinogen, factor VII , plasma C-reactive protein, and oxidized LDL antibody, whilst causing significant increases total plasma antioxidant capacity. All these factors suggest a protective effect of red wine on cardiovascular disease. [30]

The Alcohol, the Polyphenols or Both?

Whether the alcohol, the polyphenols or a combination of both are responsible for the cardio protective effect of red wine, has been the subject of recent investigations.[31] Several studies have shown that the non-alcoholic components of red wine, mostly notably the polyphenic flavonoids, can exert protective effects on cardiovascular disease by inhibiting the formation of atherosclerotic plaques in a number of ways. Some of those mechanisms are discussed here:

Atherosclerotic Plaques

To assess the effect of red wine on atherosclerosis, rabbits were given a high cholesterol diet for 12 weeks and compared to animals that received the diet plus either red wine or non-alcoholic wine products. The high cholesterol diet induced a significant increase in total and LDL “bad” cholesterol levels. When the rabbits were killed and their arteries were examined, both the rabbits given red wine and those given non-alcoholic wine had significantly less atherosclerotic plaque development in their arteries than those not given wine at all; however the alcoholic red wine gave the most protection. [32]
Atherosclerotic Plaques | Red Wines
Examples of the effect of red wine and non-alcoholic wine products (NAWP) on macroscopic plaque formation in cholesterol-fed rabbits. Aortas were stained with Sudan IV and plaque area was measured by planimetry and reported as percent of total aortic surface. Red staining indicates atherosclerotic plaques. Control animals show more plaques than wine- or NAWP-treated rabbits.

De-alcoholized red wine has also been shown to decrease atherosclerosis in mice. [33]

Endothelial Function
Endothelial Function | Red Wines
The inside layer of the arteries (endothelium) can also release a chemical called nitric oxide (NO) which may protect against the development of atherosclerosis by inhibiting the proliferation of smooth muscle cells into the tunic intima (which causes the arteries to narrow and harden) and by inhibiting platelets and white blood cells from adhering to the inside of the arteries. Red wine polyphonol extract has been shown to significantly increase the release of endothelial nitric oxide by approximately 2-fold; yet another means by which red wine components can protect against the development of atherosclerosis.[34] Other studies have also showed that red wine and purple grape juice can enhance platelet and endothelial production of nitric oxide. [35,36] In fact, endothelial function was significantly improved by purple grape juice consumption in a study involving 15 patients with Coronary Artery Disease.[37]

Adhesion of a type of white blood cell called monocytes to the endothelium plays another important role in the early development of atherosclerosis. Resveratraol has been shown to reduced monocyte cell adhesion to stimulated endothelium. [38]

Other than Resveratrol and quercetin, another ac tive compound of red wine called Delphinidin has also shown beneficial effects by preserving endothelium integrity, the alteration of which leads to diseases including cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis, and is often associated with cancers.[39]


Animal studies have shown that Resveratrol and red wine flavonoids alone could decrease total cholesterol (TC) in rats.[40]

A study involving postmenopausal women examined the effect that either alcoholic red wine, de-alcoholized red wine or plain water (placebo) had on cardiovascular risk factors such as HDL “good” cholesterol, LDL “bad” cholesterol and vascular compliance (the ability of a blood vessel wall to expand and contract passively with changes in pressure. Increased vascular compliance is associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.). The results showed that cholesterol status was not affected immediately after red wine consumption; however tests performed on the women after several weeks of daily consumption found that alcoholic red wine decreased LDL “bad” cholesterol and increased HDL “good” cholesterol, whilst the de-alcoholized red wine improved vascular compliance. The authors of this study concluded that the reduction in cardiovascular risk by moderate long-term red wine intake is due to a synergistic effect of both the alcohol and the non-alcoholic polyphenol components found in red wine. [41]

Another study using 56 healthy young men who consumed either alcoholic red wine, a solution with the same degree of alcohol or de-alcoholized red wine found that the alcoholic red wine had a more beneficial effect by increasing serum HDL cholesterol levels as well as increasing apolipoprotein A1 and other lipoprotein fractions associated with a protective effect. The de-alcoholized wine and the solution with the same concentration of alcohol as the alcoholic red wine did not show the same benefit, implying that the alcohol and the other non-alcoholic components of red wine are more beneficial when consumed together than when only consuming one or the other. [42]

Lipoprotein Oxidation

One of the most important stages in the development of atherosclerosis involves the oxidation of LDL particles. Studies examining the effect of red wine on human lipoproteins have showed a protective antioxidant effect by decreasing oxidation of both HDL and LDL particles, [43] LDL retention, and LDL aggregation attenuating macrophage foam cell formation and atherosclerosis. [44] Further investigations have found that red wines ability to inhibit oxidation of lipoproteins is due to the non-alcoholic components, namely its polyphenols. [45, 46]

A study involving 21 male subjects taking de-alcoholized red wine extract or quercetin (another polyphenol flavonoid found in red wine) supplements showed that both could decreased LDL oxidation after 2 weeks. [47] Furthermore, total plasma antioxidant capacity has also been shown to be increased by alcohol-free red wine as well, but not white wine [48] .

Blood Clotting

Recent studies have shown HDL-Cholesterol levels can explain only approximately 50% of the cardio-protective effect of alcoholic beverages. The other 50% may be related to other factors such as decreased platelet activity; that is, a decrease in the ability of blood platelets to form clots, an action sometimes referred to as “thinning the blood”. This is significant because the build up of platelets on the wall of arteries is one of the initiating stages of the development of atherosclerosis. [49]

The anti-platelet activity of wine is explained not only by its alcohol content but also by the polyphenolic components which occur most heavily in red wine. Furthermore, wine phenolics increase vitamin E levels while decreasing the oxidation of platelets submitted to oxidative stress. This protection afforded by wine has been duplicated in animals with grape phenolics added to alcohol. It appears that wine and wine phenolics in particular, could significantly inhibit platelet aggregation and that this could explain, at least in part, the protective effect of red wine against atherosclerosis and Coronary Heart Disease. [50]

Tissue factor (TF), the cellular receptor that initiates blood clotting, also plays a primary role in the development of atherosclerosis. Resveratrol and quercetin, two of the polyphenols found in red wine, have been shown to inhibit TF activity in a dose dependant fashion. [51]

A Synergistic Effect

These studies provide evidence that both the alcohol and the non-alcoholic components of red wine can exert significantly beneficial effects by preventing formation of atherosclerosis, thus reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. One or two glasses of red wine per day with meals may afford the best protection, as more than this may provide excessive amounts of alcohol and do more harm than good. If one wished to consume more red wine than this, they may wish to use de-alcoholized wine after the first 1 or 2 drinks, as excessive alcohol can be extremely destructive. One or two standard drinks per day would provide the maximum beneficial effect from alcohol, whereas subsequent consumption of de-alcoholized red wine would continue to provide protective effects from the flavonoid portion, without the damage of excess alcohol.

Red Wine and Cancer

Although excessive alcohol intake has been shown to increase the risk of various cancers, there is some evidence to suggest that frequent moderate red wine intake may have some cancer preventing effects, due largely to it’s high level of polyphenols such as Resveratrol and other flavonoids.

Epidemiology | Red Wines
A population based cohort study in Europe investigated the association between alcohol intake and mortality from all causes, coronary heart disease and cancer. [52] Assessment of beer, wine and spirit intake, smoking habits, educational level, physical activity, and body mass index were made of 15,117 men and 13,063 women aged 20 to 98 years. A total of 4,833 participants died throughout this time, of these 1,075 from coronary heart disease and 1,552 of cancer. Compared with non-drinkers, light drinkers who avoided wine did not have a very significant difference in mortality, however those who drank wine had a 34% reduced risk of all causes of death. Furthermore, heavy drinkers who avoided wine were at higher risk of death from all causes than were heavy drinkers who included wine in their alcohol intake. Most importantly, wine drinkers had significantly lower mortality from both coronary heart disease and cancer than did non-wine drinkers.

 Later these researchers looked specifically at cancers of the upper digestive tract (mouth and oesophagus). After 13.5 years from the beginning of the study, 156 persons developed upper digestive tract cancer. Compared with non-drinkers, people who drank 7-21 beers or spirits a week but no wine had a 3-fold risk of getting upper digestive tract cancer. On the other hand, those who had the same total alcohol intake but with wine intake was equal to or greater than 30% had a 50% reduced risk.[53] This study did not differentiate between red and white wine consumption however, and it should be noted that other studies not differentiating between the two types of wine have found differing results.

A case-control study in Portugal involved 74 patients diagnosed with gastric cancer and 193 controls from the same hospital ward.[54] The study found that red wine actually increased the risk; however the patients in this study consumed between several glasses and more than a bottle per day. This degree of alcohol consumption is clearly excessive.

A small case-control study in France involving 154 premenopausal female patients diagnosed with primary breast cancer and 154 controls found no protective effect from red wine, but a slightly protective effect from white wine.[55]

One the largest cohort studies to be conducted in the United States involving over 120 thousand females aged 35 - 50 known as the Nurses Health Study (NHS) has been under way since1976. Every 2 years these women are sent surveys to complete regarding dietary and lifestyle habits. A recent analysis of these results has found an inverse relationship between red wine consumption and Basal Cell Carcinoma; the most common form of cancer, affecting 800,000 Americans each year.

The results showed that women whose average red wine intake was up to 5g day, 15g/day and 30 or more g/day had a 10%, 22% and 44% reduced risk respectively. [56] No other clear protective effect was found among any other type of alcoholic beverage, in fact most alcoholic beverages were associated with an increased risk. However, no significant association between red wine and BCC was seen in the Health Professionals Follup-Up Study (HPFS), a cohort study involving over 50 thousand male health professionals.

A smaller cohort study in Minesota involving 1,508 women looked at breast density, a known risk factor for developing breast cancer. The results suggested a positive trend between breast density and daily alcohol consumption, but other than that, the only significant dietary habit found to have any association was red wine intake, in which an inverse association (protective) was observed among post menopausal women.[57]

The relationship between alcohol consumption and risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) was studied in a cohort of 35,156 Iowa women aged 55-69 years who participated in the Iowa Women’s Health Study in 1986. During the 9-year follow-up period, 143 incident cases of NHL were identified.A more frequent intake of red wine was associated with a significantly reduced risk. [58]

Cancer Epidemiology | Red Wines A recent case control study conducted in Western Australia surveyed 753 men aged 40-64 recently diagnosed with prostate cancer, and 703 men of the same age without cancer for comparison (controls). No significant difference in alcohol consumption was found between the cases and controls other than an inverse relationship with red wine. The men who consumed 1-3 glasses per week had a 20% reduced risk, those that had between 4 and 7 glasses per week had a 50% reduced risk, and those that drank 8 or more had a 55% reduced risk. [59]

A hospital based case-control study assessing alcohol consumption and lung cancer was conducted on 319 subjects (132 cases, 187 controls) in Spain between 1999 and 2000. A very slight but significant association was observed between the risk of lung cancer and white wine consumption. Red wine consumption on the other hand, decreased the risk by nearly 60% with each daily glass of red wine having an inverse association with the development of lung cancer. [60]

A case-control study in Hawaii and Los Angeles involving 558 women with ovarian cancer and 607 population controls found no overall association of alcohol drinking, but a decreased risk among wine drinkers. Those who specifically drank red wine had a 40% reduced risk of ovarian cancer than never-drinkers. [61]

Red Wine & Cancer Epidemiology: In Conclusion

Alcohol consumption, especially heavy alcohol consumption, is known to increase the risk of nearly all cancers. The studies discussed here present preliminary evidence to suggest that moderate red wine consumption may offer some protection against certain cancers, but until these results can be replicated in further studies, no clear conclusion can be reached.

Resveratrol: What is it?
Resveratrol | Red Wines Among other polyphenolic flavonoids, resveratrol is thought to be at least in part responsible for the possible anti-cancer effect of red wine. Resveratrol has been found in at least 72 plant species (distributed in 31 genera and 12 families), a number of which are components of the human diet, such as mulberries, grapes, [62,63] red wine, [64] and peanuts.[65,66] In grapes, especially when exposed to fungal infection, [67] resveratrol is exclusively synthesized in the grape skins when they are fresh. Because resveratrol is synthesized by grape skins when exposed to fungi, and yeast are a type of fungi, the resveratrol concentrations increase significantly during wine fermentation because yeast is added. Consequently, the resveratrol concentration of wine is much higher than that found in fresh grapes and grape juice. Fresh grape skin contains about 50 to 100 µg of resveratrol per gram, whereas the concentration in red wine is in the range of 1.5 to 3 mg/liter. [68-70]Because the grape skins are not fermented in the production process of white wines, only red wines contain considerable amounts of resveratrol.

Resveratrol and Cancer: Chemoprotective Mechanisms

Resveratrol and its analogs have shown significant anti-cancer properties in laboratory studies. [71,72] Several different molecular mechanisms of the chemo-preventive effects of resveratrol have been studied. [73] In a number of laboratory studies including cell culture (in vitro) experiments as well as animal (in vivo) experiments, resveratrol has demonstrated anti-cancer activity in the three major stages of carcinogenesis (cancer development); tumour initiation, tumour promotion and tumour progression. [74]

Its ability to inhibit tumour initiation seems to come from its antioxidant and anti-mutagenic action, as well as its ability to induce phase II drug-metabolizing enzymes. Its ability to inhibit tumour promotion comes about because it can inhibit cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1) an enzyme that converts arachidonic acid to pro-inflammatory substances that stimulate tumour growth. However, recent investigations have found that resveratrol is not the only chemical in red wine which is responsible for the inactivity of COX-1, as other red wine constituents, namely the catechins and epicatechins, can also inactivate COX-1 due to their peroxidase mediating mechanism.[75] Its tumour progression inhibiting action comes from its ability to induce cell differentiation in cancer cells; [76] a function that fails to occur in tumours.

Normal healthy cells undergo apoptosis; a programmed cell death which enables new healthy cells to replace the old ones. In tumours, cancerous cells fail to undergo apoptosis, so more cells continue to grow without the old ones dying off. This causes the tumour mass to grow, spread and invade other tissues. Many cancer treating therapies are aimed at causing cancer cells to undergo apoptosis to stop their spread. Resveratrol has been shown to induce apoptosis in human breast cancer cells and leukaemia cells by enhancing expression of CD95L, (a membrane protein that induces apoptosis), whilst not affecting normal healthy cells of the immune system. Resveratrol can also cause cell death in cancer cells by mediation of caspases; a family of proteins within the cells that are one of the main effectors of apoptosis. [77] Resveratrol has also showed the ability to inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cells whilst leaving normal cells unaffected. [78]

Laboratory studies have also discovered that among other anti-cancer properties, resveratrol has the ability to inhibit angiogenesis; [79] the increase in blood vessel growth to cancers. Inhibiting angiogenesis is a method used to starve cancer cells of nutrients, as without this increased blood supply, tumours can not grow.

Animal studies have shown that rats implanted with liver cancer had a dose-dependant suppression in tumour metastases when given resveratrol for 20 days. Resveratrol also decreases triglyceride levels as well as LD “bad” cholesterol levels. Raised levels of these serum lipids are strongly associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. [80]

Mice implanted with human gastric cancer cells were either given varying doses of resvertatrol or no resveratrol. It was found that resveratrol could significantly inhibit cancer growth (up to 40%) in a dose-dependant manner by inducing apoptosis among the cancer cells. [81]

A major appealing characteristic of resveratrol’s anti-cancer potential is its minimal toxicity to blood-forming cells. [82]

Resveratrol and Cancer: In Conclusion

Although these studies provide preliminary evidence to suggest that resveratrol has anti-cancer properties, human trials are needed before resveratrol should be considered as a cancer fighting treatment in humans. These studies do at least provide some reason to explain why red wine consumption may protect against certain cancers. Red wine also contains many other phenolic compounds which although have not been studied as in depth as resveratrol, may also provide beneficial effects to human health.


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