While red wine is known to exert a protective cardiac function, the exact mechanism has been unclear until recently. Research shows that red wine is a potent inhibitor of a detrimental substance that wreaks havoc on blood vessels. The villain, called Endolthelin-1, causes blood vessels to constrict and fatty plaques to form. The hero, antioxidant polyphenols (found in skins of red grapes), block the formation of the harmful Endolethelin-1.
So, what is it about elevation that makes the difference? Higher altitude vineyard sites are closer to the sun. Grapes implement a defense mechanism against the sunlight intensity by thickening their skins, resulting in higher polyphenol levels. Resveratrol, one of these polyphenols, has been shown to have great anti-oxidant properties. Antioxidants have been shown in numerous medical studies to protect the heart.
High altitude wines, however, may promote more than just cardiac health. Resveratrol has been found to have implications for destroying human cancer cells. This important polyphenol may also have “fountain of youth” inference as it has been shown to encourage cell survival during times of stress.
Altitude has become somewhat of a status symbol among Argentinian wine producers, each daring to plant slightly higher than his neighbor…in spite of the enormous finances required to build at this elevation, as well as the risk of frost damage. Argentine vintner Nicolas Catena Zapata has been widely credited for elevating the status of these high altitude wines through serious experimentation into the effects of high altitude. (Zapata’s daughter, who is a physician at the University of California Medical Center in
, has been key in orchestrating the research). Those of you coming with us in March 2013 for the harvest tour, will have the good fortune to have a private dinner at the Catena Zapata winery. San Francisco
Here’s to your health!