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Ryan Levy
 
September 4, 2014 | Ryan Levy

Ask the Winemaker: Is drinking wine good for my heart?

According to a Czech study reported to the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Barcelona, wine protects against cardiovascular disease in people who exercise.

Professor Milos Taborsky, who led the study, said: "This is the first randomized trial comparing the effects of red and white wine on markers of atherosclerosis in people at mild to moderate risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). We found that moderate wine drinking was only protective in people who exercised. Red and white wine produced the same results."

According to Taborsky, evidence suggesting that mild to moderate consumption of wine protects against CVD has been accumulating since the early 1990s. In particular, retrospective studies have found that wine increases levels of HDL, the "good" cholesterol. But, until now, there has been no long-term, prospective, randomized study comparing the effects of red and white wine on HDL cholesterol and other markers of atherosclerosis.

The study included 146 people with mild to moderate risk of cardiovascular disease. Participants were randomized to one year of moderate consumption (200 mililiters for women and 300ml for men, a maximum of five times a week) of Pinot Noir or Chardonnay from the same year and wine region of the Czech Republic.

Participants kept a logbook on their consumption of wine and other alcoholic beverages, medication use, and amount and type of exercise. 

"The only positive and continuous result was in the subgroup of patients who took more exercise, which means regular exercise at least twice a week, plus the wine consumption. In this group HDL cholesterol increased and LDL and total cholesterol decreased in the red and white wine groups. There may be some synergy between the low dose of ethyl alcohol in wine and exercise, which is protective against CVD." said Taborsky.

He continued: "In a future study we will compare the effects of red and white wine on markers of atherosclerosis in patients at high risk for CVD who take statins and do regular exercise. We hope to find that moderate wine consumption is safe in these patients."

Professor Taborsky concluded: "Our current study shows that the combination of moderate wine drinking plus regular exercise improves markers of atherosclerosis, suggesting that this combination is protective against cardiovascular disease."

A glass or two of Nice Reserve Malbec with dinner after our jog in the park?  Yes of course!  Doctor's orders.

Time Posted: Sep 4, 2014 at 8:55 AM
Ryan Levy
 
August 29, 2014 | Ryan Levy

Ask the Winemaker: What are these crystals in my glass of white wine?

Ask The Winemaker with Ryan Levy & Ian Eastveld of Nice Winery and nicewines.com

Question: What are these white, crystal looking things in my bottle or glass of white wine?

Answer:  They are tartrates.  Tartaric acid is one of the three main acids found in wine grapes (along with malic acid and citric acid) that provides the tartness in grapes and wine.  Tartaric acid's solubility is temperature-dependent.  So, when wine is chilled down, some of the tartaric acid drops out of solution as fine white powder or crystals and does not dissolve again.  In white wines, which are often refrigerated for days or weeks, and in which consumers aren't expecting to see any sediment, the tartrate crystals can be alarming.  Some wine lovers who've seen these crystals wonder if they are shards of glass.  These crystals - sometimes romantically called, "wine diamonds" - are not shards of glass, and are harmless.  The crystals are potassium bitartrate, known more commonly as "cream of tartar" and which can likely be found in your kitchen cupboard.  Are you a baker?  Like to make pastries or cakes?  Nearly all cream of tartar for use in baking is harvested from wineries.


Mass-produced wines are routinely stabilized in various, and sometime harmful, ways.  A large commercial winery typically uses sterile filtration (to eliminate any chance of refermentation in bottle), heat stabilization (for proteins that can cause a haze in a wine if it's exposed to high temperatures) and cold stabilization (for tartrate crystals).  The cold stabilization process involves chilling the wine down around freezing for several days shortly before bottling.  This causes tartaric acid to drop out of solution in the tank, so that no more is likely to precipitate out in a customer's bottle or glass.  Of course, like most interventions, cold stabilization has other less desirable consequences.  A lower concentration of tartaric acid in the resulting wine changes the wine's flavors and can impact its long-term ageability.

How a wine is stored impacts whether a customer even notices tartrates in bottle.  If a cork-finished wine is stored upside-down, tartrate crystals typically adhere to the cork and are removed with the cork when the wine is opened.  Tartrates won't adhere to screwcaps, so no matter how wines sealed with a Stelvin or screwcap closure are stored, any tartrates will be visible in the bottle or in the last glass (like in the picture below).



So, feel lucky when you see the tiny "wine diamonds" in your bottle or glass.  It means the wine was made with love and care by a family who values as little intervention in the wine as possible.  It means you have in your posession a truly handmade, boutique and special wine.  As for those "wine diamonds" . . they are perfectly safe to eat or drink, but we do not advise trying to use them as earrings or engagement rings.  Learn more about small batch, boutique winemaking and find these rare wines at www.nicewines.com.  Ryan Levy & Ian Eastveld, Winemakers, Nice Winery.

Time Posted: Aug 29, 2014 at 1:37 PM