I ain't no friggin' chemist, botanist, or scientist of any kind. I cut cheese for a living. But also being in the wine business, I get curious about stuff that is related to what I do but way beyond my small business station in life. So here goes...
In 1933 the Japanese scientist, Michio Takada, isolated a natural plant phenolic compound and named it resveratrol. Phenolic compounds are synthesized by organisms in response to pressures from pathogens or wounding of another kind and function as antioxidants. His studies led to the marketing of a health supplement drawn from the Japanese knotweed plant in the 1960's.
Back in 1993 the news show, 60 Minutes, did a segment called "The French Paradox" which coincided with initial research on resveratrol at Harvard University. The 60 Minutes program sought to show that regular moderate consumption of red wine was a healthful lifestyle for Europeans who consumed a fattier diet than we Americans, yet we here seemed to suffer disproportionately from heart disease. It was thought provoking to say the least.
In 2003 Harvard scientist David Sinclair published an article in the journal, Nature, that showed that resveratrol could prolong the life of a certain common yeast. This article was followed shortly with similar life extending findings in a lab worm. In 2006 Italian scientists found that the life of a certain fish could be extended with resveratrol and that same year Sinclair and others determined that resveratrol could counter negative effects of a high fat diet in mice. The genie now appeared to be out of the (wine) bottle regarding this here-to-fore secret elixir of life. Did we now possess the secret of life? Well, yes and no.
Folk medicine has always known about the healthy values of eating your fruits and vegetables and the medicinal values inherent in certain plants. The man who taught me about wines, Jim Sanders, the "father of fine wine in Atlanta", always maintained that wine was a stress reducer and in America, boy, do we need that! Heck, even Sonny Corleone admonished his father, the old Don, to "Drink your wine, Pop, it's good for you." in the feature film, The Godfather. So maybe we're over-thinking this stuff. Well, yes and no.
It is, of course, always good to learn as much as we can about healthy living. Further studies now show that resveratrol stimulates enzymes called Sirtuins including SIRT1, a particular enzyme related to a family of genes called SIRT. SIRT1 is usually produced by exercise and proper diet and resveratrol seems to mimic those effects in individuals with a less healthy lifestyle. Recent research seems to indicate that resveratrol does not extend lifespans but may help to moderately improve our stamina by limiting inflammation and oxidation from aging leaving our arteries healthier.
Now for the bad news. The standard glass of red wine may contain .2-5.8mg/l resveratrol. Since the resveratrol comes from the grapeskins, white wine has none. In order for the resveratrol to be healthfully beneficial you would need to consume a hundred glasses of red wine daily! I don't believe even I could do that!
Aside from red grapes, resveratrol is most commonly found in peanuts, berries, muscadines, and cocoa, so should you want to indulge in your chocolate addiction, you now have permission. Coincidentally by the way, we now carry Guylian "No Sugar Added" 54% Cocoa bars and we think we also may be able to locate an appropriate red wine to go with that. So maybe fifty chocolate bars and fifty glasses of wine a day!
Thursday's tasting here has been cancelled as Gail Avera and her company, Atlanta Beverage, continue to experience growing pains as they struggle with their merger with Gusto Wines. On Friday from 5 to 7pm, Colleen Rotunno, formerly of Corkscrew Cafe in Dahlonega and now with Quality Wine & Spirits, joins us for an exposition of her fine wines. Please join us. And if you found this article interesting, please become a "follower" of this blog so my self-esteem may be buoyed.