The question of whether or not wine is good for you has been hotly debated. The general consensus is that red wine, in moderation, (maximum 2-3 glasses a day, depending on your age, weight, and sex) can impart cardiac benefits, and contribute to overall well-being.
In Italy, the question is NOT hotly debated. Rather, wine is merely enjoyed, (along with an assortment of traditional Italian cocktails), almost always accompanied by food and friends.
In Italy, the wine is very much connected to the culture, history, and yes, the land. When you drink a wine from a certain region, you are meant to eat the food that comes from that region along with it. The food and the wine have evolved side by side over the centuries, and so there is a true harmony between them. It’s not just an accident or the opinion of some fancy sommelier. It’s a natural phenomenon.
In the (Blue) Zone
You may already know about the National Geographic study several years ago that identified several “blue zones” around the world where the citizens enjoy a disproportionate degree of longevity. One such area is a cluster of villages in the mountainous region of Nuoro Province, Sardinia, Italy. This is home to the world’s longest-living men, and has nearly 10 times more centenarians per capita than the U.S.
And yes, they drink their share of wine.
Specifically, they drink a wine called Cannonau, which is made from a grape that is genetically similar to what we call Grenache. What’s so special about this wine? Besides tasting great with the local cuisine, it has two to three times the level of flavonoids as other wines. Small doses of this antioxidant-rich beverage throughout the day could explain the lower incidence of heart disease among Sardinian men.
Perhaps just as important is that they always share a drink among friends, socially, and just after coming back to the village after a long day of shepherding.
Yes, Wine Is Good For You!
(Sicilian Proverb: “Bonu vinu fa bonu sangu.” – “Good wine makes good blood.”)
The Greek god Dionysus introduced both ecstasy and madness to mankind—and wine to Sicily. When the Greeks began settling the island in the 8th century B.C., they brought with them that mythical vine which produced the precious fruit needed to create their favorite beverage, “oinos,” or what Sicilians now call “vinu.” The nectar of the gods.
The vines cultivated in Sicily today are the descendants of those original root stocks brought by the ancient Greeks. Take a drink of the famous Nero D’Avola wine and you’re experiencing time travel in a glass. Although modern techniques have greatly increased the quality and longevity of these fine wines, the grapes themselves have remained genetically unchanged for over 2,700 years.
Through the alchemy of viticulture, you are sharing something very important and elemental with the likes of Archimedes, Aeschylus, and Sappho—all of whom lived in Sicily (called Magna Grecia or “Greater Greece” by the Romans) at some point in their lives.
In Vino Veritas
These days, we also have the scientific evidence to support the claim that wine is good for you. According to one study:
“Compared to other alcoholic beverages, red wine contains a complex and concentrated mixture of healthy plant chemicals called polyphenols. The main polyphenols in red wine, such as compounds known as anthocyanosides, catechins, proanthocyanidins, and stilbenes (resveratrol) affect many body functions including the regulation of cholesterol, inflammation, and blood vessel dilation.”
Humans have been making and drinking wine for a long time. Archaeologists have found evidence of wine that it goes back to the Neolithic period.
But hold on a second. Back then making wine was as simple as mashing grapes and leaving them to ferment in their own natural sugars and yeasts. Nowadays, all sorts of objectionable additives are used, such as refined sugar, artificial colors, industrial yeasts, and plasticizers, not to mention the pesticides applied to the grapes before harvesting.
So is wine good for you? Well, yes. If you choose to enjoy a natural and organic wine, consumed in moderation and with food, it can be a vital part of the Mediterranean Diet. Otherwise the harmful effects might outweigh the benefits. But have another glass just in case!
Alla vostra salute!
- Red wine, in moderation, (maximum 2-3 glasses a day, depending on your age, weight, and sex) can impart cardiac benefits, and contribute to overall well-being.
- In Italy, the food and the wine have evolved side by side over the centuries, and so there is a true harmony between them. Enjoy them together at lunch and dinner.
- Traditional red wines contain a complex and concentrated mixture of healthy plant chemicals called polyphenols, which have been shown to reduce inflammation.