By now, everyone knows that red wine is good for you—not just for your palate and with red meat and mushroom risotto, but good for your cardiovascular system and personal longevity. It’s a veritable fountain of youth.
Reductionist-oriented scientists have teased out the responsible molecule: resveratrol. Yes, it’s really difficult to pronounce, especially after two glasses of wine. Let me help: res-VAIR-uh-trawl.
Grape plants produce resveratrol as an innate defense mechanism against stress—in particular, cold temperatures and excess moisture. But while grape skins provide resveratrol, a far more concentrated source comes from Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum). Still, red wine is sexier, so savvy supplements makers blend the two—red wine grapes for sex appeal and knotweed for the actual active ingredient. Quality supps are likely individually foil-sealed because resveratrol oxidizes easily, which can render the pills moot.
Early studies showed that resveratrol extended the life span of everything researchers tested in a lab. Harvard scientists found that mice fed the equivalent of junk food along with resveratrol actually had the same improved general health as those eating a nutritious diet.
In 2008, the same researchers gave middle-age mice resveratrol and found that while they were more healthy and active than the poor slobs eating rat chow, they all lived to about the same age. Still, resveratrol added life to their years—improved vascular elasticity, greater motor coordination, reduced cataract formation, preserved bone-mineral density, decreased inflammation—if not years to their life. In yet another study, resveratrol also helped stop cancer-cell generation, promotion and progression.
Let the drinking begin
Supplements are the most potent means of consuming resveratrol. But all those red wine–drinking Frenchies who get fewer heart attacks than Americans must be onto something, right? Researchers have figured out that the red wine variety with the highest resveratrol content is pinot noir. And since cool, moist conditions are best for resveratrol potency, wines from Oregon, Washington and upstate New York trump those from California.
Matter of fact, Cornell University researchers tested 111 wines from five states and foreign nations. New York’s pinot noirs averaged 13.6 micromols of resveratrol, compared to 11.1 for all non-New York wines and 10.1 for California concoctions.
So how does this compare to supplements? Apples and oranges. Micromoles measure liquid and can’t be calculated into milligrams. However, “a very good aged glass of dark red wine has about 1 mg resveratrol in a 5-ounce glass,” says Bill Sardi, founder of Longevinex, a supplement containing 100 mg resveratrol and other synergistic ingredients.
I know what you’re thinking: New York wines? They can’t possibly taste good. Can they?
I investigated—because somebody had to. I purchased a half-dozen pinot noirs from France, Italy and New York. I convened a panel of wine-consuming amateurs to judge the best-tasting pinot noir. We took pretty good notes, but by the fourth bottle the penmanship had deteriorated markedly, and I can’t even locate my notes from the fifth bottle on.
No matter. By the end of the night, we were throwing around Napa-quality phrases like “tangy and tart,” “cherry fruit” and one notable “urinal aftertaste.” We actually found a New York pinot noir to be “smoother” than one of the French wines.
Because I’m an utter ignoramus at selecting wines, resveratrol gives me the healthiest marker I’m liable to come across (though “polyphenols” is up-and-coming and “procyanidin” may be best of all). So when your customers ask what type of wine to buy, sell them on the benefits of pinot noir. Or point them to the bottle of knotweed pills. And tell them to toast to good health!