Apr. 26, 2001 HAIFA, Israel and NEW YORK, N.Y., April 13, 2001 – Scientists at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have created a kosher white wine with the beneficial effects of red wine. In a related study, they also found that an Israeli wine has more of the health-promoting chemicals than its French counterparts.
Prof. Aviram will present his findings at the New York Academy of Sciences Alcohol and Wine International Meeting in Palo Alto, California, April 26 to April 29, and will publish them in the August 2001 issue of the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry.
Researchers have known for years about the beneficial effects of red wine, which has been linked to lower cholesterol oxidation, identified as a major contributor to the blockage of arteries.
The Technion-made white wine contains more flavonoids, the natural chemicals that counteract the damaging effects of cholesterol oxidation. According to Prof. Michael Aviram of the Technion Faculty of Medicine, who headed the research, this was achieved through a novel process.
"We concluded that processing white wine by putting grape skins of chardone or muscat grapes [which are white or yellow in color] in contact with alcohol for a short period helped extract the skin’s flavonoids, and produced white wine rich in potent antioxidants similar to those found in red wine," Prof. Aviram said. Red wine retains its flavonoids because the grape skins are left on for several weeks prior to the wine preparation.
Prof. Aviram’s process "may now allow white wine to share the stage with red wine as causative of the ‘French Paradox,’" notes Dr. Charles Bisgaier, vice president of the pharmacology division at the Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Esperion Therapeutics, Inc., referring to the unexpected low incidence of coronary disease among the French despite a diet high in fat-rich foods.
Since the skin of white grapes can’t be left on longer than 18 hours without compromising the taste and aroma of the wine, Prof. Aviram added alcohol naturally obtained from wine to the squeezed grapes during the preparation process. This increased the flavonoids more than five-fold, making them as potent as the much greater amount found in red wine.
"There are many different classes of flavonoids, and the ones in the specially prepared white wine are extremely potent," Prof. Aviram explains.
The alcohol added to the white wine resulted in a slightly stronger wine with 16 percent alcohol content (versus 13 percent in most wines) and since not all the grape sugar was converted into alcohol, it resulted in a dessert wine.
Prof. Aviram conducted the study in conjunction with the Binyamina Winery in Carmel, Israel. While he cannot share the formula, he notes that the kosher wine is currently available in Israel under the Binyamina label.
In a related study, Prof. Aviram’s team found that Israeli wines contain a relatively higher content of flavonols, a group of very potent flavonoids, than those found in French wines.
"This group of flavonoids is produced at an enhanced rate under intense sunlight, which may account for the higher content in Israeli wine," he explained.
The finding came about unexpectedly, Prof. Aviram says.
"We set out to understand why our red wine studies back in 1995 found twice as much reduction in cholesterol oxidation as the French studies. It turns out the difference lies not in our methods, but in the strength of the flavonoids in Israeli grapes," he said.
Prof. Aviram has been studying for many years the effects of various foods – including pomegranates, tomatoes and licorice – on cholesterol oxidation and cardiovascular diseases. In his previous studies, Prof. Aviram clinically proved that red wine reduces cholesterol oxidation and attenuates arteriosclerosis, the major cause of morbidity and mortality in the Western world.
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