Wine Culture and Information - Volume 17
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  Editorial Issue 37, January 2006   
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Wine and Health


 In Italy it is often said red wine makes good blood. This is just one of the most famous Italian proverbs about the effects of wine on health, not the only one, of course, concerning the beverage of Bacchus in relation to the many aspects of human's life. Of course, we are not doctors and we certainly have not the right experience or any conceit to give our readers indications on these subjects, as it is always appropriate to ask a qualified specialist. Anyway, it seems to be strange and improbable the fermented juice of red grapes has the capability - after its ingestion - to transform itself into blood, as suggested by the famous proverb. It is very likely this proverb is not to be considered “literally” and it is also true the term “blood” gets different meanings according to the contest in which it is being used, frequently used as a synonym of courage, mood as well as of life.


 

 Capability of making “good blood” apart, it is obvious wine however has some effects on human body, including any “side” effect caused by alcohol. Concerning these subjects, at least, it is not necessary to be a doctor in order to understand the effects of alcoholic beverages, something which is hardly agreeable. Anyway, wine is not alcohol only and its more than 250 elements of which it is made of, have other effects on human body. According to a nutritional of view, the contribution of nutritive elements contained in wine is rather negligible, as the most important nutritive principles are contained in traces only. Therefore, the nutritional value depends on the quantity of energy ethyl alcohol is able to provide, about 7 calories per gram, including the ones provided by any sugar contained in the wine. However, it is necessary to remind the contribution of alcohol's calories is not directly usable from the body for the muscular work, they are used by basal metabolism, allowing a saving in the consumption of other nutritive values, such as fats and sugars.

 According to a nutritional point of view, it is necessary to consider the calories of alcoholic beverages and of wines in the total count of calories ingested, while remembering calories provided by alcohol are not very efficient for the body. For example, a gram of alcohol provides 7.3 calories (each unit of alcoholic volume corresponds to 7,9 grams), a gram of sugar provides 4.1 calories, a gram of fat corresponds to 9.3 calories and a gram of protein to 4.4 calories. A gram of alcohol has more calories than sugar and proteins, and a little less than fats. To calculate the calories alcohol contained in a beverage can provide, it is enough to multiply the alcohol by volume in a liter times 7.9 (the weight in grams of an unit of alcohol volume) then times 7.3 (calories provided by each gram). Therefore, a liter of wine with an alcohol by volume of 13% gives about 749 calories. If we consider the volume of a typical glass - about 125 milliliters - each of them provides to the body about 93 calories. It should be noted to this result must be added the calories provided by any sugar contained in wine.

 Wine is not alcohol only. It is an extremely complex beverage made of more than 250 different elements, and many of them can have positive effects and benefits on the body. Since ancient times, man has always paid special attention to wine, by observing its positive and negative effects. It is more likely, the first effect seen in wine certainly was the one caused by alcohol, which is - as a matter of fact - classified as a toxic substance and, as such, it is always necessary to consume it in moderation, and never abusing of it. The moderate consumption of wine and of alcoholic beverages is always subject of debates, in which folk's wisdom - and the common sense motivated by a responsible and clever consumption - has always recognized as deplorable and the abuse was not encouraged at all, although in past times, certain meetings exclusively reserved to men often ended with participants getting drunk. The folk's wisdom on moderate consumption of wine can be summarized with the Italian proverb “One who drinks a little of wine is a sheep, who drinks it in right quantity is a lion, who abuse of it, is a donkey”, of course paying respect to the intelligence of the animals mentioned in the less noble examples.

 The use of wine as a remedy or medicine is documented since the beginning of civilization, not only for the effects related to alcohol, but also for the other properties of the beverage of Bacchus for the prevention and cure of some symptoms. For example, it is documented that, in past times, wine produced with grapes affected by Botrytis Cinerea was given - of course to the ones who could afford such expensive wines - for the cure of some diseases. It is probable these wines had a mild antibiotic action - this could justify their beneficial effects - noticed in some cases. Even in many medical and cooking treatises of the past, the beneficial properties of wine for the body and for the prevention of some disorders were extolled, something which corresponded to be true, although not scientifically proven at those times, but certainly proven by empiric methods and by direct observation.

 Science and modern medicine keep on investigating on wine and on its effects on health. In the last years, there have been many “discoveries” about wine, probably also encouraged by the social interest towards this beverage and - certainly - also by economic interests, as to make wine looking like a panacea. Of course, modern methods and scientific research allowed the discovery of many positive effects which modern medicine is attributing to wine. It seems the humble grape juice after it has being fermented gets almost magic qualities, like an elixir of life and wellness. The doubt there is a sort of exaggeration about this subject is however pretty strong. Wine certainly has good effects on health and body, it can surely have a preventive action against certain disorders, however it is often forgotten its abuse is detrimental. The exaltation of the positive qualities of wine could result in an excessive consumption, even justified, because the higher the quantity, the better the effects. An excessive consumption of wine means an excessive consumption of alcohol and this is something which cannot have positive effects on health. We should remember about that, and the ones who support the good quality of wine should remember that as well, because among the good qualities of wine, there is - and it must be, always and however - moderation. This is a good effect on health, too.

 



   Share this article   Share on Google+   Summary of Editorial column ABC Wine 
  Editorial Issue 37, January 2006   
Wine and HealthWine and Health MailBoxMailBox  Contents 
Issue 36, December 2005 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 38, February 2006

MailBox


 In this column are published our reader's mail. If you have any comment or any question or just want to express your opinion about wine, send your letters to our editorial or fill in the form available at our site.

 

I like very much pairing dry sparkling wines with desserts, although there are many people who remind me this is a wrong combination. Why is it not possible to pair sparkling wines with desserts?
Dario Bonutti -- Udine (Italy)
Before replying to your letter, we would like to remember - by borrowing the ancient wisdom of those who preceded us - that de gustibus non est disputandum (there is no debate about tastes), so if you like pairing a dry sparkling wine with desserts, no one has the right to object. In suggesting a food match, the criteria are based on technical principles which should be - and conditional tense is always a must - objectively agreed by anybody. This does not mean food pairing represents an unquestionable rule, it should be taken like a suggestion. According to a technical point of view, sweet foods are always paired with a sweet wine in order to favor sweetness in desserts. As opposed to other organoleptic sensations - for which are required wines having elements capable of contrasting them - in sweets, it is best not to contrast sweetness, because it could cause the mutual disharmony of wine and food. Indeed, it is better to emphasize the sweet quality, both because it is coherent with the kind of food, as well as because food and wine can exalt each other this way.



I recently discovered grappa and, by browsing the internet, I discovered there are some shops which sell grappa made with rue and fruits. I know grappa comes from the distillation of grape's pomace. How is it possible these kinds of grappa can exist?
Catherine Wilson -- San Diego, California (USA)
As you have rightly observed, grappa is produced from the distillation of grape's pomace only. According to the Italian law, no other distillate produced with other fermentable matters can be defined as grappa. Fruits can be properly fermented and distilled in order to produce an alcoholic beverage which - in this specific case - is called fruit brandy or fruit distillate. For example, in case a distillate is produced with fermented pears, it can be defined as distillate of pears or pear brandy only, never - and in any case - it ca be called grappa of pear. Anyway, grappa - the product which comes from the distillation of the grape's pomace - can also be aromatized with substances of vegetal origin. In this case, vegetal substances - for example fruit or aromatic herbs - are macerated in grappa in order to extract their organoleptic qualities - which will be added to the ones of grappa - therefore obtaining aromatized grappa. For example, in case pears are being macerated in grappa, it will be obtained grappa of pears, not to be confused in any case with a pear brandy.



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  Editorial Issue 37, January 2006   
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