Do the antioxidants in wine decrease with time like they do with olive oil?
For example, if I drink a wine from 1996 tonight, am I not getting any of the health benefits I would from one that was bottled earlier this month?
– Cassandra (last name withheld)
San Francisco, CA
The issue of health benefits from red wine can get rather dizzying. Let’s recap the latest batch of information:
- Do older wines have lower antioxidant levels than newer ones? No. A study published in 2006 in the Journal of Food Science and Agriculture compared wines ranging from 1 to 28 years old and concluded that, on average, “antioxidant activity of red wines does not correlate with wine age.”
- The “on average” is particularly important, since some antioxidants increase with age, while others decrease. For example, a 2003 study in the Journal of Food Science and Agriculture found that the anthocyanin content of red wine decreased by an average of 88 percent over a 7-month period.
- It is difficult to generalize antioxidant levels of wines since these are affected by several factors, including the particular variety of grape used, aging methods, pH levels, and even the specific strain of yeast used in the fermentation process.
- Resveratrol (the famous antioxidant found in high amounts in the skins of red grapes) levels are higher in grapes that grow in cooler climates.
- Pinot Noir has the highest level of resveratrol
I wouldn’t get too concerned with these details, though.
Remember, red wine is not the only source of these antioxidants. Red grapes — with the skin on! — basically deliver the same health benefits.
Anthocyanins, for example, are found in abundance in red grapes, cherries, raspberries, and blueberries. Instead of shunning vintage wines because of their low anthocyanin content, just eat any of those fruits on a regular basis.