Researchers develop white wine with health benefits similar to red

June 05, 2001

Researchers in Israel say they have developed a method to boost the antioxidant content of white wine so that it has health benefits similar to red wine, considered the healthiest of all wines due to its reputed ability to fight heart disease. Their finding will appear in the June 7 online issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society. The print version of the article is scheduled to appear in the July 16 issue of the journal.

"This is good news for white wine lovers," says Michael Aviram, D.Sc., lead investigator in the study and a professor at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel. Besides providing a more healthful alternative to those who prefer the taste of white wine over red, the development is also promising for those who cannot drink red wine, including some migraine sufferers whose condition can be exacerbated by red.

At least one wine manufacturer in Israel (Binyamina Winecellars and Distillers) has already begun manufacturing the healthier white wine using the technique developed by Aviram's lab. The new beverage, which has the same taste, color and aroma of regular white wine, is expected to be sold in the United States by the end of the year, says Aviram.

White wine is traditionally made without the use of grape skins. Red wine is made by fermenting the juice along with the skins. The skins give red wine its coloration and contain the highest concentration of polyphenols, which are potent antioxidants. The researchers theorized that they could boost the antioxidant capacity of white wine by extracting more grape skin polyphenols during processing.

The researchers obtained whole squeezed grapes and incubated them for up to 18 hours in the presence of alcohol before removing the skins. This resulted in a significant increase of white wine polyphenols up to six times the normal level and exhibited antioxidant activity similar to that of red wine, the researchers say.

The polyphenol content of the white wine produced in this study was still one-quarter that of the red wine used for comparison. The similar antioxidant activities between the two wines suggest that white wine contains varieties of polyphenols with higher antioxidant activity than those found in the red wine, Aviram and his associates say.

The addition of alcohol to the fermentation process resulted in an increase in the sugar level of the wine, producing a sweet, dessert-type white wine. The researchers are currently trying to modify the method to create a dry white wine with the same antioxidant benefits.

Some researchers believe that the link between wine and a reduced risk of heart disease remains inconclusive until long-term human clinical trials are conducted. Aviram is optimistic that such a connection will eventually be proven, citing his own studies of atherosclerotic (hardening of the arteries) mice that reveals a substantial disease regression in the presence of red wine.
-end-
The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology provided funding for this study.

The online version of the research paper cited above was initially published June 7 on the journal's Web site. Journalists can arrange access to this site by sending an e-mail to newsroom@acs.org or calling the contact person for this release.

Michael Aviram, D.Sc., a professor at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel.

American Chemical Society

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