Wine is said (and I chose my words carefully) to contain a substance that promotes heart and general health and prevents aging.
It is called resveratrol, an antioxidant found in the skins and pips of grapes and also occurs in blueberries, peanuts, cocoa, cranberries and other foods.
But it is found in its most concentrated form in red wines because these stay in contact with the skins during fermentation for longer than whites.
All this came to light in the late 1990s when researchers sought some explanation for the ability of the French to consume so much saturated fat in their diets yet remain remarkably free of coronary heart disease.
They called it the French Paradox.
And they reckoned the answer was the love of the French for red wine made from grapes that contained what was later identified as resveratrol, this antimicrobial compound produced by plants to protect them against the dangers of ultra-violet light, climatic changes and infection.
The research could not have been better timed. With the consumption of red wine in decline, the findings were immediately seized upon by the wine industry and have been part of its sales pitch ever since. The only problem is that most of the research, including that which now suggests resveratrol might also help protect against obesity and diabetes, both strong factors in heart disease; against dementia, inflammation, blood clotting and even various forms of cancer, has all been carried out using mice, not people.
And, according to the Mayo Clinic, one of America's most reputable medical institutions, a person would need to drink 60 litres of red wine a day to get the same dose of resveratrol as the mice.
Hence the growing interest in resveratrol supplements which, according again to the Mayo Clinic, cause no harm but fail to deliver the full dose of resveratrol because the human body can't absorb it all.
The answer then could well be wines (reds and whites) which contain 40 times the amount of the resveratrol normally found in a single bottle, which can, according to more research, be absorbed 250 times more effectively than that delivered in capsule form.
The resveratrol-enhanced wines are being produced in New Zealand by well- known winemaker Alan McCorkindale for an outfit called Southern Wines, which is a partnership between Kathleen Corsbie and Annie Winmill, a member of the Moffat family of Dry Gully, in Alexandra.
They hold the New Zealand rights to a process, which involves the addition to the wines of resveratrol extracted from grapes using a technique developed by a Sydney-based GP with an interest in wine and its history.
So far, just two of the resveratrol- enhanced wines - a pinot noir and a sauvignon blanc - have been produced under the Balancing Act label with a pinot gris and chardonnay to follow in the next few months.
Whether they will deliver on any of the promises made by the researchers, the promoters and the disciples of resveratrol is anybody's guess.
All I know is that finding out will provide a hell of a lot more pleasure than popping pills.
Balancing Act 2011 REW
Central Otago Pinot Noir, $25:
A soft and pleasant cherried, berried, slightly earthy Alexandra pinot noir that hints of liquorice and chocolate and feels good in the mouth - maybe because it's laced with more than 70mg of resveratrol.
Balancing Act 2012 REW
Sauvignon Blanc, $20:
A blend of Marlborough and Waipara fruit that will have real appeal to those who enjoy a more moderated style of sauvignon blanc. A lovely soft, succulent, and gently gooseberried wine. Also contains about 75mg of resveratrol.
- © Fairfax NZ News