Significant Health Benefits of a Mediterranean Diet and Wine are Reported

Evidence of the cardiovascular benefits of a healthy diet along with the consumption of a moderate amount of wine continues to mount.

A major clinical study published in this past week’s issue of The New England Journal of Medicine shows diet–including wine–has a major impact on heart health. There is a nice, layman’s summary of the study in Monday’s New York Times:

About 30 percent of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease can be prevented in people at high risk if they switch to a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, nuts, beans, fish, fruits and vegetables, and even drink wine with meals…

The magnitude of the diet’s benefits startled experts. The study ended early because the results were so compelling, the study monitors considered it unethical to continue.

Once again, we are reminded that a healthy diet, specifically one high in olive oil, legumes, fruits, vegetables and lean protein such as fish along with the consumption of wine is a very good way to reduce cardiac risk, and to actually prevent heart attacks and stroke.

Read the NY Times summary here.

Doug Salthouse


The Sardinian Paradox: Black wines

A beautiful view from Sardinia
A beautiful view from Sardinia

“Sixty Minutes” told the white-wine-worried to drink red for their heart’s sake more than a decade ago. Now Good Morning America trumpets the health benefits of “black” wine, specifically the Cannonau of Sardinia as magic bullets of antioxidants and anthocyanin in a bottle.

This is not so much breakthrough science as a new wave of publicity for a veggie-heavy Mediterranean diet. In this case, GMA guest Dan Buettner touted his new book on “Blue Zones” a term he coined for clusters of great longevity.  He hails Sardinians for a traditional peasant diet long on bread, cheese and wine. Meat? Not so much, Buettner says.

 Well it is an island and, duh, home of sardines. Still Buettner says fish is not as important as sheep’s cheese and dark red wine. His other “blue zones” are not viticultural hot spots: Okinawan, the Nikoya peninsula of Costa Rica, and the Adventist/vegetarian center of Loma Linda, California.

Me, I suspect hard work and exercise have more to do with it.  Yet Canonau, Sardinia and its distinctive cuisine deserve the plug.

Cannonau is the local name for Grenache or Garnacha, a dark-skinned and rustic favorite around the Mediterranean. Too many Americans think Grenache is a wimp grape for jug wines, especially pink.  Hardly. Cannonau/grenache/garnacha can make rich stuff in America, Spain, the south of France and especially Sardinia, the big island west of Tuscany and north of Sicily. One of the best is Sella & Mosca’s riserva from 2005. Full of flowers and dark dried fruits,  a lot of wine for $12.99. And yes, it’s very dark. Drink to long life.

2005 Sardus Pater Kanai Riserva
2005 Sardus Pater Kanai Riserva of Sardinia - $34.99

Another darkling, more sophisticated and possibly more salubrious is the Kanai reserve from Sardus Pater, made from Carignane a compatriot grape of Grenache is the dark skinned Mediterranean gang.  This won a three-glass Tre Biccherri salute from Gambero Rosso, even before the diet doctors weighed in. It’s $34.99 at B-21.

As to the healthful red wine, most research points to the dark est but researchers are still deciding which grapes varietals have the most punch. Dark colors, high tannins, high extraction, extra sunlight, high altitude are clues, not guarantees.

Still color is fun and purple black in a glass excites me and starts an old Isley Brothers tune in my head “The blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice.”

Besides Cannonau/Grenache , other dark wines are high in the right flavonoids, specificially the tannins and anthocyanins. These are found in the seeds, stems and skins of grapes that give red and blue colors to wine (anthocyanins color flowers too) and rather healthful.

These include Mourvedre/Monastrell, the tannat of Uruguay, and the Malbecs of Argentina and Cahors southeast of Bordeaux.

While we’re at it, the food in Sardinia is unusually fresh and primal. The  island has its own pecorino, a couscous called fregola.  flaky flat bread as fragile as old sheet music, and wood-fired meats. You can get a great helping of the island’s food and wines (black and otherwise) at Sardinia Ristorante and Enoteca on a quiet corner of Miami’s South Beach.

So drink up and live long. Very long.

– Chris Sherman, The Blogging Nibbler