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Wine Brunch and Health

A couple of unrelated articles in the Aug 7 Edition of Brunch, the Hindustan Times Sunday Magazine caught my attention. The fist, ‘Wine and women’ described the personal wine preferences of three celebrity stars.

Celina Jaitley, a former Miss India loves French Rose` with food. One reason she likes it is because ’it has bubbles which makes it more enjoyable.’ Pooja Batra has an occasional glass of red wine for its health benefits.Divya Dutta on the other hand, sips only white wine and that too at the social doos. Inadvertently or intentionally, the snippets have featured three beautiful young women, each with a different preference ranging from a rose`, to red to an occasional white. So who is more right and ‘with it’ and drinking healthier beverage?

The second piece was a monologue penned by Dr. K.K.Birla, the well-known industrialist, former Member of Parliament and the Chairman of HT. He reminisces about the heart bypass surgery he underwent in a London hospital in 1999. After the successful operation he was coaxed by his doctor to ‘take an alcoholic drink after the discharge’. The teetotaler octogenarian, not in a mental frame to consent to the doctor’s writ was told to, ‘suffer it courageously which is all I can advise you.’

The two seemingly unrelated articles had a common thread; wine, alcohol and health. But let us first look at the flavour and enjoyment angle in the first article.

Rose, blush or pink as it is sometimes called, this red grape wine does go well with Indian and Asian foods. It may not be a serious wine but it is a fun wine and is particularly refreshing in the hot Indian summers. Ask any sommelier in India or Asia and he will concur. The world-renowned wine consultant Michel Rolland loves Indian food and finds Rose` the best matched wine with Indian spicy food. It can be made from practically any red grapes especially the darker grapes like Cabernet, Merlot, Cab Franc, Zinfandel, Grenache, Shiraz and Pinot Noir. A short maceration for a few hours to a couple of days releases the colour but keeps the tannins away and the wine fruity and refreshing.

The bubbles Celina likes due to the tingling sensation on the tongue are in fact nothing but the carbon. dioxide released during the fermentation. In most quality red or white wines they would be considered a flaw. The gas is left out of the bottle as it interferes with the taste. But knowing some people like these bubbles, a few producers leave them in the wine. Of course, Champagne (which evolved because of many wine drinkers loving the bubbles, Spanish pink Cava or an Italian frizzante or spumante might be even more enjoyable for such people.

It is interesting to note that in the ever changing world of wine there has been significant growth in the consumption of rose and pink bubblies in the past 3 years. Even some Bordeaux classified growths, sensing a good opportunity have started producing these wines.

And now back to the common thread of these articles- wine and health. It has been well established in many studies by now that alcohol taken in moderate quantity improves the HDL level by 10-20% and decreases the LDL levels temporarily. The effect lasts for a short period of 24-48 hours. The moderate quantity is described usually as two standard glasses of whisk, beer or wine for men and one standard glass daily for women. Binge drinking (like have the weekly quota over one evening are certainly harmful and have known to cause even heart failures) is a big no-no. So Dr. Birla’s doctor’s advice to him was simple but very sound.

The fact that any alcohol, including wine, is good for heart is usually underplayed by wine producers and marketers, perhaps for another reason. And that justifies Pooja Batra’s logic of drinking red wine for its health benefits. Wine has actually two healthy components (remember the modern quantity, though!)- alcohol and anti-oxidants.

Anti-oxidants, the additional component, are the anti-aging phenols found in the skins and pips of grapes as also in the oak used for aging mostly red wines and to a lesser extent some of the white wines. During crushing, the red wines are allowed to extract these compounds from the skins. The tannins that come from the process help aging of the wine as also the complexity during the aging process. Darker grapes with thicker skins usually have more tannin. That is also the reason many producers of Bordeaux, Chile and Australian Shiraz claim their wines to be healthier for the heart. The extent of benefits has not been proven exactly so far but it does show that due to these chemicals wine is more beneficial than beer or liquor for heart, lungs, dementia and even cancer.

Dr. Birla’s was perfectly right in not taking the doctor’s advice. One must never force anyone who does not take alcohol for any reason to start dinking wine or alcohol for health reasons. This is contra-indicative. But when young people like our Teen Devian take to wine for enjoyment and the health benefits, that is a welcome scenario and we shall say ‘Cheers’ to them. In the meanwhile, Dr. Birla can certainly look for anti-aging compounds in green-tea, chocolates, grapes and many other recipes at the advice from his physician, heart specialist and the dietician and we wish him long life.

By the way for a wine brunch on a Sunday check out some great deals at Nikko Metropolitan Hotel (with unlimited Spanish Cava and the use of health club facilities), Olive Bar and Kitchen, TK’s at Hyatt Regency and the Pan Asian at the Marriott. The amount you drink may not be good for health but you can certainly enjoy a nice and lazy Sunday afternoon.

Check out our earlier related wine and health Articles:

Wine an Affair of the Heart at


DWC Organizes a Conference on Health and Wine at

(Dr. Wasir, one of the panelists unfortunately passed away last year)

Wine In India, Indian Wine, International Wine, Asian Wine Academy, Beer, Champagne, World Wine Academy


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