Q: As wines age, do they lose some of the potency of their health benefits? If I mostly drink wines that are five years old or older, are they less likely to have the health benefits of younger, more freshly bottled wines?-- Alan
A: The short answer is that there's not enough research yet to say. Some scientists, such as Roger Corder, a professor at the William Harvey Research Institute in London and author of The Red Wine Diet, have suggested that younger, more tannic red wines may have a greater potential for increasing health benefits, but a look at the larger picture may be helpful. While evidence suggests that drinking wine in moderation is correlated with certain health benefits, such as improved cardiovascular health, scientists are still racing to figure out why. Some scientists point out that wine drinkers may simply lead healthier lifestyles. Others are researching specific components of wine, such as alcohol or polyphenols. Polyphenols are chemical compounds found in grapes, particularly in the skins and seeds. Polyphenols include resveratrol, quercetin and procyanidins, all currently hot topics of medical research, but the effects of these compounds have mostly been studied in the laboratory, making any conclusions about their long term effects on the body difficult.
As for older wines, the chemical process that wine undergoes as it ages is not yet well understood. As red wine ages, the polyphenols react with each other and some, such as tannins, will precipitate out of the liquid as sediment, while others combine to form new compounds. The rate at which all of this happens varies greatly across different wines and vintages, making any generalizations about aged wines problematic.
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