What do you prefer, white of red wine? Do you usually have a glass with your meal or one to calm down in the evening? Whatever your choice might be, wine is perhaps the most beneficial alcoholic beverage for your body.
However, do not be dazzled by the high prices and the impressive bottles of foreign brands, our little country has always been making wines rich in flavor, body and smell. Something that can be scientifically proven, as you will further read.
How is wine made?
Wine is made by fermenting grape juice; grapes are gathered, crashed and placed in buckets or tanks to ferment. Natural grape sugars are turned into alcohol by fermentation, either naturally or by adding yeast to control the process. The crashed grapes are pressed, so that the skin and whatever sediment is removed.
Whether the grapes are pressed before or after fermentation, along with the color of the grapes used, determines the type of wine produced. In order to make white wine, the grapes are subjected to pressing prior to fermentation. On the contrary, when red wine is to produce, grapes are let to ferment before that.
After this, the wine is put into stainless steel or oak barrels in order to age until bottling.
What does wine provide?
The main phenolic compounds in grapes and wine are flavonoids (catechin, flavonols, anthocyanins, and polymers) and non-flavonoid compounds (1). Grape cultivar, the employed method, climate condition and soil composition affect both wine composition and phenolic compound concentration (1, 2) significantly. In addition, it appears that the contact duration between the skin and grape juice prior to fermentation might affect flavonoid concentration in the wine (1, 2).
So, the main distinction between red and white wine is the color of grapes used, along with whether the grape juice is fermented with or without skins. Red wine is rich in tanins and resveratrol due to the fact that grape skins and seeds are also being fermented (1); these compounds are also present in white wine, but in lower concentrations (2).
Nevertheless, both types of wine have similar nutritional profiles per glass (148 ml): they provide between 121 and 125 calories, 4 grams of carbohydrates, manganese, potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6, iron, riboflavin, phosphorus, niacin, calcium, vitamin K, and zinc. In comparison to white wine, red wine provides more manganese, potassium, iron, riboflavin, and niacin.
Grape varietals and wine origin
In order to make wine many different varietals are used, e.g. Pinot Gris, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon). While red varietals are used to make red wine, white wine can be produced from either red or white grapes. For instance, French champagne is made of the red Pinot Noir grape.
Among wine making countries France, Italy, Spain, Chile, South Africa, Australia, US California, and (in the least part) Greece stand out. While most regions cultivate several varietals, some places are famous for one or two, e.g. Napa Valley Chardonnay, Spanish Tempranillo, and South African Chenin Blanc.
Likewise, the Greek varietals are often distinctive of region of origin (4, 5). Some of the more popular are Agiorgitiko (from southern Greece), Asyrtiko (from Santorini), Krasato (from Rapsani), Liatiko and Kotsifali (from Crete), Mantilaria (from Aegean islands), Maurodafni (from Patra, and Kefalonia), Moschato and Moschofilero (from Mantinia, and south Peloponissos), Debina (from Goumenissa), Xinomauro (from Naousa, Goumenissa, Amyntaio, and Rapsani), Roditis (from Patra, Macedonia, and Thessalia), Rompola (from Kefalonia, and central Greece), Savatiano (from Attica, and central Greece), and Sideritis (from Peloponisos, and Evia).
What is so special about Greek wine? #greekwines
Greek wines are richer in phenolic compounds compared to the ones of other countries, with the exception of quercetin and epicatechin, that are more abundant in Canadian wines. As it regards phenolic content of wines, winemaking countries, in ascending order (increasing phenol content), were as follows: Spain<Canada<Hungary<Greece<France<Japan<Portugal (4).
Recent study proves that the main phenolic compounds in Greek wines are anthocyanins and flavonols (5). Using high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) to analyze both red and white Greek wine composition, it was found that their phenolic content constitutes of gallic acid, cathechin, hydroxytyrosol, caffeic acid, vanillic acid, syringic acid, epicatechin, p-coumaric acid, ferrulic acid, and quercetin (6). It appears that red wine is richer in these compounds compared to the white one (5, 6).
However, French wine has much more Κ+ ions than Greek and Spanish ones. On the contrary, Greek wine has twice as much Na+ ions, compared to French or Spanish wine; as a result it’s more beneficial for your health (4). Bear in mind that the major active-transport system, known as Na+K+ ATPase (which exports Na+ from the cell and imports K+ into it), as well as carrier systems for glucose and amino acids require Na+ as energy source. In addition, Greek wines have higher Ca2+ and Mg2+ when compared to wines from Hungary, France or Spain; a quality attributed to soil composition (4). As regards Fe3+ and Cu2+ content, their higher concentration in wine is in fact a disadvantage that results in a hazy and cloudy product (4). It also appears that wines from southern Greece are milder, more flavored and of greater acceptance, than the ones produced in the north.
How does wine affect your health?
Many studies underline the beneficial health effects of both red and white wine, and other types of alcohol. More specifically, it is proven that moderate alcohol consumption is related to a 25-40% decline in the risk of cardiovascular disease (7), as well as improves blood cholesterol levels (8), and reduces risk of degenerative neural diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases (9, 10). In a recent research, those who drank small to moderate amounts of alcohol had lower risk of death from heart disease or stroke, compared to those who drank beer or other alcoholic beverages (11). Likewise, drinking wine helps to reduce risk of osteoarthritis (12) and of lung cancer (13).
Is red wine more beneficial to health than white wine?
Red wine is the alleged secret behind the French paradox; while their nutrition is full in saturated fat, they have low heart disease risk. Possibly due to red wine effect in cardiovascular health (14), that results in a 30% decline in the risk of dying from heart disease (15). A property attributed to wine compounds having antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects (16). Similarly, it is proven that drinking 1 or 2 glasses of red wine per day, for 4 weeks, increases HDL cholesterol levels by 11-16% (17).
Several studies indicate that red wine consumption may be helpful in decelerating age related mental decline (18), due to resveratrol antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects (19). Resveratrol seems to be able to prevent beta-amyloid plaque formation in the brain, which determines Alzheimer’s disease (20).
Resveratrol is also tested as a potential (standalone) nutritional supplement for relieving joint pains (21), improving insulin sensitivity (22, 23), and activating genes that prevent age related diseases (24).
Do not overindulge
In order to be beneficial, alcohol must be consumed in moderation. World Health Organization recommends that alcohol should be limited to 2 drinks daily for 5 times a week (25). Drinking more alcohol might result in organ failure, addiction, brain damage (25), and immune system decline (26).
In all, a glass of fine red wine is good for your heart and immune health, either accompanying a meal or at the end of long day. As long as you do not overindulge yourself, there’s always tomorrow.
- Chung KT, Wong TY, Wei CI, Huang YW, Lin Y. Tannins and human health: a review. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 1998 Aug; 38(6):421-64.
- Igor Lukić, et al. Phenolic and Aroma Composition of White Wines Produced by Prolonged Maceration and Maturation in Wooden Barrels. Food Technol Biotechnol. 2015 Dec; 53(4): 407–18.
- SELFNutrition Data. Alcoholic beverages, wine, table. Available at: http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/beverages/3849/2
- Kallithraka S, et al. Instrumental and sensory analysis or Greek wines; implementation of principal component analysis (PCA) for classification according to geographical origin. Food Chemistry 2001; 73: 501-14
- Roussis IG, et al. Antioxidant activities of some Greek wines and wine phenolic extracts. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis. 2008; 21: 614–21
- Proestos C, et al. High performance liquid chromatography analysis of phenolic substances in Greek wines. Food Control. 2005; 16: 319–23\
- Goldberg IJ, Mosca L, Piano MR, Fisher EA; Nutrition Committee, Council on Epidemiology and Prevention, and Council on Cardiovascular Nursing of the American Heart Association. AHA Science Advisory: Wine and your heart: a science advisory for healthcare professionals from the Nutrition Committee, Council on Epidemiology and Prevention, and Council on Cardiovascular Nursing of the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2001 Jan 23; 103(3):472-5.
- German JB, Walzem RL. The health benefits of wine. Annu Rev Nutr. 2000; 20:561-93.
- Vasanthi HR, Parameswari RP, DeLeiris J, Das DK. Health benefits of wine and alcohol from neuroprotection to heart health. Front Biosci (Elite Ed). 2012 Jan 1; 4: 1505-12.
- Panza F, Frisardi V, Seripa D, Logroscino G, Santamato A, Imbimbo BP, Scafato E, Pilotto A, Solfrizzi V. Alcohol consumption in mild cognitive impairment and dementia: harmful or neuroprotective? Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2012 Dec; 27(12):1218-38.
- Grønbaek, Deis A, Sørensen TI, Becker U, Schnohr P, and G Jensen. Mortality associated with moderate intakes of wine, beer, or spirits. BMJ. 1995 May 6; 310(6988): 1165–9.
- Muthuri SG, Zhang W, Maciewicz RA, Muir K, and M Doherty. Beer and wine consumption and risk of knee or hip osteoarthritis: a case control study. Arthritis Res Ther. 2015; 17(1): 23.
- Athar M, et al. Resveratrol: A Review of Pre-clinical Studies for Human Cancer Prevention. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2007 Nov 1; 224(3): 274–283.
- Mombouli JV, Vanhoutte PM. Endothelial dysfunction: from physiology to therapy. J Mol Cell Cardiol. 1999 Jan; 31(1):61-74.
- Vidavalur R, et al. Significance of wine and resveratrol in cardiovascular disease: French paradox revisited. Exp Clin Cardiol. 2006 Fall; 11(3): 217–25.
- Bonnefont-Rousselot D. Resveratrol and Cardiovascular Diseases. Nutrients. 2016 May 2; 8(5). pii: E250.
- Hansen AS, Marckmann P, Dragsted LO, Finné Nielsen IL, Nielsen SE, Grønbaek M. Effect of red wine and red grape extract on blood lipids, haemostatic factors, and other risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2005 Mar; 59(3):449-55.
- Wang J, Ho L, Zhao Z, Seror I, Humala N, Dickstein DL, Thiyagarajan M, Percival SS, Talcott ST, Pasinetti GM. Moderate consumption of Cabernet Sauvignon attenuates Abeta neuropathology in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. FASEB J. 2006 Nov; 20(13):2313-20.
- Soleas GJ, Diamandis EP, Goldberg DM. Wine as a biological fluid: history, production, and role in disease prevention. J Clin Lab Anal. 1997; 11(5):287-313.
- Granzotto A, and P Zatta. Resveratrol and Alzheimer’s disease: message in a bottle on red wine and cognition. Front Aging Neurosci. 2014; 6: 95.
- Elmali N, Baysal O, Harma A, Esenkaya I, Mizrak B. Effects of resveratrol in inflammatory arthritis. Inflammation. 2007 Apr; 30(1-2):1-6.
- Soleas GJ, Grass L, Josephy PD, Goldberg DM, Diamandis EP. A comparison of the anticarcinogenic properties of four red wine polyphenols. Clin Biochem. 2002 Mar; 35(2):119-24.
- Sharma S, Anjaneyulu M, Kulkarni SK, Chopra K. Resveratrol, a polyphenolic phytoalexin, attenuates diabetic nephropathy in rats. Pharmacology. 2006; 76(2):69-75. Epub 2005 Nov 11.
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- World Health Organization. Global status report on alcohol and health 2014. Available at: http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/112736/1/9789240692763_eng.pdf
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