White wine can be just as healthy as red, according to researchers from the University of Montpellier in France who have made a Chardonnay with a high polyphenol content.
Several studies have linked regular consumption of wine to reduced risk of heart disease. However, red wine has long been thought to offer more protection than white because it contains more polyphenols, antioxidants that mop up damaging free radicals and may also help keep arteries clear of fat deposits.
Developed by researchers in the oenology and pharmacology departments at the University of Montpellier 1, the wine is called Paradoxe Blanc after the paradox of the French diet - despite being high in fatty foods, there are relatively low levels of heart disease in the population, thought to be because of regular wine-drinking.
Polyphenols, which are concentrated in the skin of grapes, are affected by the way wine is made. The researchers, led by Pierre-Louis Teissedre, chose white grapes that were rich in polyphenols and used a wine-making process similar to that for red wine, including steps such as heating up the mixture to a higher level than normal.
The Chardonnay produced had four times the normal polyphenol content. The wine, designed for people with Type 1 diabetes whose bodies are less effective at mopping up free radicals, was then tested on diabetic rats. In a report on the study, published in the online version of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the New Scientist says results showed that wine restored antioxidant levels in the blood back to normal, even if all the alcohol was removed. Teissedre said a glass or two of the wine a day could benefit people with diabetes.
However, tests have not yet proved that the wine reduces fat deposits in arteries, thereby reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes, noted the report.
The New Scientist added that winemakers are already rushing to exploit the market. Paradoxe Blanc, now available commercially, could be the first of a new generation of wines deliberately enriched with antioxidants.