Saturday, June 23, 2012

Wines: health benefits, myths, health risks and food pairings.....


 Wines are interesting topic for everyone for the exotic appeal they bring with them. The happy times are associated with good food and good wines to go with it. Everyone gets a high just with a thought of good wines, the hype around wines being healthy for you makes the picture even more rosy.

Are they really healthy for us or they are just like other alcoholic beverages? There have been many researches to prove they are heart healthy, anti aging and even good for diabetics. How much truth is there in the literature the wine manufacturers provide us with? Is there any real research ever done on the benefits of wines?

And most importantly, are wines good for everyone?

Or they have potential harmful effects like other distilled varieties of alcohol? You must know if you are a wine drinker or if you are thinking to start on wines as our country is slowly catching up on them. There is good variety to choose now. There are good grapes and good vineyards and manufacturers are bringing France into the picture as well. As close to the real French wines as it can be.


More about the wines and appreciating wines later, let's see what is the hype around the health benefits of wine.

Are they all true or just promotion tactics by wine manufacturers?
How much truth and how many pinches of salt to be taken it with?

The most common term we hear is Resveratrol. It is a natural polyphenol found in some plants and it's concentration enhances in living plants when they are attacked by pathogens like fungi and Bacteria. Since grapes are infested by mould even when they are on the vines, a practice that is encouraged in vineyards, the Resveratrol might get more concentrated in those grapes.

But the final product has very little(0.1-14.3 mg/L) Resveratrol in it. Only the red wine has it, as it is found only in the skin of the red grapes. This compound can be manufactured chemically too and most of the studies done on animals uses the synthetic Resveratrol.

I have a suggestion for the manufacturers to indicate the percentage of natural Resveratrol on the bottles as there is a significant variation in different wines.

Don't get disheartened to know the low percentage of a good compound, as these phytochemicals are quite potent in their effects. And even in minuscule amounts, they can bring positive health benefits. Resveratrol is a potent antiinflammatory in it's effect and it can be a great thing for heart health as it keeps the arteries healthy. It prevents plaque formation in arteries, and blood clots from forming through altering plasma viscosity and lipid profile. The health of the arteries is  benefited by the presence of the tannins and other antioxidants found in red wine as well.

Resveratrol has been connected with curing cancer too, there have been trials with higher concentrations on animals where it shows reduction of tumors. On humans it is yet to be established. You definitely do not consume wine in large amounts as a cure to cancer. But having a glass now and then could scavenge any carcinogenic cells in normal healthy humans. Especially if you eat sensibly too.

Apart from Resveratrol, there are flavonoids and procyanidins . These are the pigments which are found in the red grapes and are quite potent anitioxidants. They scavenge the free radical from the tissues and make your body younger at the cellular level. The concoction of all these beneficial compounds makes wine a good drink to have.

At the same time, the alcohol content of any fermented drink makes it a potential candidate for abuse. If you do not abuse the wine, have just a glass or two, it's fine. Excess alcohol consumption is definitely taxing on the Liver, arteries and heart muscle. Triglycerides get higher too. If you have week heart muscles, wine or any alcoholic beverage is not for you as it can lead to heart failure. The harms would outweigh the benefits in such cases.

What about the calorie count?

Just remember, alcohol has more calories than most macronutrients we ingest. While carbs have 4 calories/gm, proteins have 4/gm, fats 9/gm the alcohol has 7 calories/gm. And not only calories, alcohol does not release glucose in the blood (which is the simplest compound that reaches the blood when you eat something), it releases an even simpler compound (Ethyl alcohol converts to Acetaldehyde, an intermediate compound to enter the Kreb's cycle) in the blood that burns faster than glucose to give calories. Good thing is, wines are low on alcohol content at 12.5% v/v. Still it is not a slimming agent as touted by marketers of wine. I would say, almost neutral.

Interestingly, wines have been known to prevent type 2 diabetes. It results in improved insulin sensitivity, probably because it enters the blood as Ethyl alcohol and not as glucose. I would like to see more studies on this though.

No medical practitioner would prescribe wines as potential cure to diseases for sure. As an additional antioxidant - anti inflammatory agent it is good enough. Moderate amount of wine would make your good cholesterol higher, bad cholesterol lower and arteries healthier by a small extent. Small extent is good enough when required.

I believe all these beneficial compounds in the wine are helpful if we keep our eating habits clean and well supplemented. Bio availability of the compounds will be better and it would add to the already good diet you are having. 

Junk food and wines together are a no no.

I'll tell you about a great session of food and wine pairing a group of bloggers attended recently. We were hosted by Four seasons and it was a nice experience to learn about pairings. Venue was the well known Fres Co. at Janpath, New Delhi. Our wine connoisseur of the day was the lovely Shamita Sangha who gave us a few insights into pairing wine with Indian and Continental/mediterranian food. We all were a curious lot and Shamita was quite affable in her demeanor, letting us know how room temperature in tropical countries cannot be suitable for storing or serving wines in summer months. If one wants to store wines at home, a wine fridge is a good idea as we don't have a concept of wine cellars in our country.

Otherwise we should just buy as much is required and consume it quickly. Else it's alcohol content would decline and it would turn to vinegar, causing all the flavors and aromatic notes to disappear.

As for starters, this Blush, still rose and off dry wine,was served with Ceasar salad and we realised how well they complement each other. See what a nice salmon pink color it is.. Slightly sweetish, a little more than the Chenin Blanc(which was served next to it) and the fruity notes are fresh sweet. More strawberry and rose kind. Slightly tangy, creamy dressing and freshness of greens in the salad complement each other, and the sweetish wine too. 


I liked the balance in Ceasar salad by Fres Co. , perfect sun dried tomatoes and crisp fresh lettuce with chicken and bell peppers in a creamy dressing.

Blush will be a nice dessert wine too probably.  I am thinking about some fruity dessert.


Next was the Chenin Blanc (still white and off dry) , with the apetiser. Citrus-fruity notes in the wine and slightly tangy Chaat patatas, a potato based dish was good with it. There was a chicken Shih tauk too. Nicely done well rounded flavors of food. 


Chenin Blanc would go well with our Kosambari type salads and Kachumbers as well, may be some yogurt based salads too. And if the salads include fruits I'd like it more. With tomato based apetisers and light kababs and tikkas too, especially if it is the malai tikka type.

Basically the food should not block the taste and aroma of the wine and vice versa , this is what Shamita said and makes sense too. Simple logic.

Next came Merlot (still red and dry) and the Turkish style spiced chicken kababs with garlic aioli and bread wedges. The wine is more tannic in nature, the way plums and other dark red purple fruits taste. The tannic quality to this wine is quite interesting. Look at the color it is. Deep red and purplish tinge.


Needles to say, a more robust tannic and fruity wine is suitable for heavier meaty dishes and a bit more spicy meals. I would like it with my light chicken curries and mutton stews as well.


This could be a nice winter wine for us.With the heavier meals, heavier spicing and warming tones.


I couldn't stop myself from taking these many pictures of this lovely red wine. Shamita told us how a wine is dry when it is less sweet and more tannic. Earlier I used to think it's the alcohol content that decided dryness in a wine. I stand corrected.


Dry is lack of sweetness in wines. Merlot is dry and pleasantly so.

The next was a Barrique Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon(still red and dry). This is Shamit'a favorite one, she told. And asked which one would be our's.


This one is deeper in color and a little stronger on tannins probably. Mild oaked she introduced. That means kept in Oak barrels for a short while to get the flavors. It was a good wine as well. And was paired quite well with a penne with ragu of lamb, red wine and tomato.


We were not clicking pictures by this time. The talk was interesting and Shamita kept our ears glued to her words. As I sipped this one, I realised my vote would go for Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon both. May be in different moods I'll pick up any of these.

Blush and Chenin Blanc would be summer wines I guess. I am sure I would be trying all of these on different occasions and would look out for the others from Four Season's stable. The purist views about wine pairing have given way to a more relaxed fusion friendly approach. Wine is being enjoyed in all parts of the world and our own palate leads us to find the best wine with our food ultimately.

I have tasted few American, Australian and Fench wines, it was good to know that the association of Four Seasons with Bouvet-Ladubay, France, has definitely brought value to the wines. I am a convert, would be enjoying my wines more after knowing the tasting notes. Seriously.

I'd tell you my secret. Till date I thought wines are overrated as I rarely enjoyed having them. I would thank Four seasons for making me a convert. And Yes, as we say the company matters a lot, the blogger friends were the best possible company to be there. Purba of A-musing, Sushmita of My Unfinished Life, Deeba of Passionate About Baking, Rekha kakkar of My Tasty CurryPrateik of Snow Leopard, Rituparna of Chocolates and dreams and Anupama of Anu creations were all a great bunch to be with.


Fres Co is always a great experience, I would have wandered around for shopping if it was not a baking hot summer day .

A day well spent. Some fun education on wine pairing was enjoyed to the hilt.

With the health benefits wine has, one should be motivated to eat good clean food with it. If you think you can have junk and badly prepared food with wine as wine is anyways going to make you healthy, you will be in trouble sooner or later. Make the wine worth, pair it with good food. Not only the balance of flavors and aromas , a balance of nutrients would make a great sense.

What say?

Disclaimer : This group of bloggers was hosted by Four Seasons for a session of  wine and food pairing. We were not paid for writing in favor of the wines. The observation of the wines in this article are my personal views. We were not told about any health benefits of these wines in the session, the health inputs are all mine as well.


20 comments:

  1. An absolutely interesting read, Sangeetha! :D And great pictures too. I'd like to taste a Merlot.

    Cheers!

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    1. Thanks Vidhya, glad you liked it.

      Welcome to HFDV :-)

      Delete
  2. Oops. My apologies - I meant "Sangeeta" :D Just realized I spelt it wrong.

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  3. That was very informative indeed. Thank you so much!
    Lovely pictures too!

    Cheers!

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  4. Interesting post... and informative too. Inspired to attend any wine-tasting sessions that may be there in Delhi and come to my notice.

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    1. Glad you liked the info Arvind.
      Hope to see you next time in such an event :-)

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  5. What a power-house of information this post is. Now I know even more about wine. Love those pictures.

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    1. Thank you Rituparna. It was nice being with you :-)

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  6. That is a lot of info!!! Yeah, I always knew a glass of wine is good and I do prefer wine to any other alcohol. But I did not know so many health benefits. I am really intrigued by the Chenin Blanc. In United States I never came across it but in your blog and in Umashankar Pandey's blog I read it. I wonder if it is more an European and Australian drink. Hmmm.
    I liked the inputs on wine pairings. When I taught cooking in USA I always had trouble in suggesting which wine would go with what. This is a great post to bookmark! Thanks!

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    1. Thanks Bhavana.
      I would love Chenin Blanc with fruity, leafy salads the best. I get a slight Guava whiff in it and then you can imagine how a vegetables and fruits raw salad with a creamy dressing would be perfect with it.

      Wines are a french tradition and I guess all the hype and exotic tags come from those hardcore purist pairings. In a world of fusion we have to rely in our taste buds too. I am so glad you have been into food and cooking, I am already loving g your blog for various reasons :-)

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  7. Beautifully said Sangeeta, and with awesome photographs. Loved the angles and the hues. So much more to wine than I would have ever thought. Was wonderful to have shared space with you. Thank you for the mention .... and looking forward to more good times together!

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    1. The pleasure is all mine Deeba.
      Thank you and looking forward for the next time :-)

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  8. thanks sangeeta for penning down the health benefits!!!

    you are always wonderful company and so are the other lovely ladies(and the guy too!!)

    http://sushmita-smile.blogspot.in/

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    1. You know we enjoy being together :-)
      It's mutual...

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  9. This post is a mine of information and will go straight to my bookmark folder.

    Thank you for the mention and I couldn't stop drooling at the lovely photographs you clicked.

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    1. One of the drool factors is you Purba ;-)
      Thanks for everything :-)

      Delete
  10. hmmm I live her in uk but still till date I have not been able ot make this taste, I seldom drink wine maybe a glass on christams day thats about it ..

    I have been told that i shud drink red wine

    Bikram's

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  11. I never cared so much about wines, frankly I've never tasted a good aged wine. I too always thought the health benefits of wine is overrated, but after reading this, I might as well enjoy the glass of homemade red wine I made. And if I get a chance I would definetly try and get my hands on Chenin Blanc...it sounds like my kind of wine.

    Thank you for the informative post!

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  12. Very informative post - well researched and presented. Resveratrol and procyanidins on my research list too! I like the way you have explained the health benefits as is.
    Great article.

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