Wine and Health
The pairing of these two words is unsurprising, isn’t it? Wine has often been touted as healthful when consumed in moderation, beneficial for the heart if limited to a glass, a potent weapon against diabetes and cholesterol: the secret of the long-lived. But how true are these claims? Let’s not succumb to generalities and clichés; health is a serious matter that demands precision.
The French Paradox…
Years ago at Pradorey, we began to delve into the work of Roger Corder, a professor at Queen Mary University of London, author of “The Wine Diet” translated into over 25 languages, and a keen researcher of the so-called “French paradox”. This refers to the puzzling nutritional fact that the French population, despite a diet rich in animal saturated fats, has a remarkably low mortality rate from cardiovascular diseases compared to the rest of Europe. In 1994, Serge Renaud, a research director at INSERM in Bordeaux, postulated in an article for the prestigious Lancet journal that moderate wine consumption could counteract the impact of these saturated fats.
After years of research, Professor Roger Corder discovered that this French paradox wasn’t uniformly observed throughout France. Instead, it was more pronounced in regions where wine with higher polyphenol concentrations was consumed. In his aforementioned book, Professor Corder rated the wines he analyzed based on their potential cardioprotective impact.
…and the Miracle of Ribera del Duero
In Corder’s classification, wines were ranked on a scale from 0 to 5, with 5 being the highest score for wines rich in phenolic compounds. Notably, only about 1.5 percent of the wines analyzed achieved the maximum score (1,000 milligrams of procyanidins per liter, a type of polyphenol Corder believed was central to the French paradox). Curious and with an inkling that Ribera del Duero wines might possess a superior phenolic concentration than wines from other regions globally, we had Pradorey wines analyzed by Corder. Our hunch was right. As our director, Fernando Rodríguez de Rivera, notes, “Even our youngest wines, less tannic and with lower extraction levels during their making, showed values significantly haigher than the average from other regions.”
A Pioneering Study on Wine and Health
Eager to dig deeper, we collaborated with Corder himself, who conducted analyses of our wines. Additionally, we engaged a team of experts from the University of Salamanca (responsible for categorizing the wine’s phenolic composition at every stage of production) and the AINIA technological institute. The latter simulated digestion and analyzed the formation of metabolites directly related to cardiovascular risk biomarkers.
Three Years of Pandemic, Three Years of Hard Work
The culmination of three years of dedication—from June 2020 to May 2023—supported by CDTI with an investment exceeding half a million euros, is the study “New Cultivation Techniques and Oenological Practices for Producing Wines with a High Concentration of Phenolic Compounds Beneficial for Cardiovascular Health”.
Key findings from the study reveal significant conclusions. “It is observed,” the study states, “that four biomarkers associated with cardiovascular risk factors are positively modulated: nitrous oxide, a vasodilator improving blood pressure; LDL receptors and the HMGCoA enzyme—both associated with improved cholesterol metabolism—and glycogen levels enhancing insulin resistance.”
“One of the project’s objectives,” explains Pilar Moretón, head of Pradorey’s R&D department, “is to consistently achieve the phenolic compound concentrations making wines potentially healthier, where the vintage factor influences these parameters less.” The key, she continues, lies “both in vineyard cultural practices—pruning, fertilizing, thinning, etc.—and in various winemaking and aging techniques in the winery.” Fernando Rodríguez de Rivera, the winery’s general director, adds, “We want to explore how to make healthier wines, examining the impact of different aging typologies without losing the essence of Ribera del Duero or what defines our wines.”