Paul Tonacci

Early humans regarded wine as a magical beverage with all kinds of special healing properties. This may stem from the fact that in the earliest days of civilization — and for generations afterward — wine and beer were drunk more often than water. Potable water was hard to come by in those days, but wine was around, though little was understood about its fermentation process.

Fast forward to today. Although grape fermentation has been examined at length, the health benefits of wine still haven’t been pinpointed, with exciting studies coming out every year. This becomes confusing, though, when two — or more — studies yield conflicting results. Which to believe?

At the heart of the matter is the fact we’re presented yearly with so many of these new findings that our heads can be left spinning. A friend of mine, who lectures on wine, recently asked a conference, “Wine can’t be such a cure-all and cause-much simultaneously, can it?”

If wine is such a volatile beverage for our health, avoiding it might be one person’s takeaway. (However, to be clear, I’m not advocating that at all but rather a moderate intake of wine!) For example, some studies claim resveratrol, a compound found in red wine, helps overall pulmonary function in hearts while other studies say that resveratrol’s heart benefits are grossly exaggerated. So which are we to believe? The answer may lie somewhere in between.

One of the most famous studies to debut about wine’s health benefits was a 1991 “60 Minutes” segment called “The French Paradox.” Herein, a French researcher, Dr. Serge Renaud, declared that although French people tended to indulge in high-fat diets and low exercise lifestyles (they also smoked — a lot), French men and women have half the rate of heart disease and would live 2.5 years longer than their American counterparts. Further twisting the blade between our ruinous, American diet and that of the laissez-faire French, was that, unlike the U.S., they enjoyed much more red wine throughout their lifetime. This glosses over a lot of contributing factors, but if drinking red wine could help heart health, we Americans owed it to ourselves to drink more red wine!

Needless to say, any solution to potentially improve one’s health by consuming wine was widely popular and Dr. Renaud’s findings would end up increasing North American red wine consumption by 40 percent shortly thereafter.

In the spirit of drinking wine with higher levels of the heart-healthy compound resveratrol, below are some recommendations:

- Tenute Le Querce Il Viola Aglianico del Vulture 2009 DOC ($18.99 at Atlantic City Bottle Company)

- Marietta Cellars ‘Old Vine Red - Lot 60’ NV ($12.99 at Roger Wilco, Ventnor)

- Altas Cumbres Malbec 2012 ($10.99 at Downbeach Wine & Liquors, Margate)

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