Nobody really discusses the health benefits of port wine because port wine is sweet. That’s pretty much the reason why. Very similar to why people don’t ask about the health benefits of blueberry pie, even though people regularly search for the health benefits of blueberries.
If you read our discussion on what is port wine, then you know immediately that it is a combination of wine and either brandy or distilled grape spirits. Alone it is just wine, the brandy is what makes it Port Wine.
But even though it is a dessert wine, we can still discuss the health benefits of Port Wine.
Are they special, healthy grapes?
There’s nothing particularly special or “extra healthy” about the grapes grown in the Duoro valley of Portugal. In fact most of the vineyards are of mixed varieties. The trend is to go to single variety vineyards, but that is years to come.
But the climate does contribute to the health benefits of port wine. Because the Duoro valley sees moist, dry, freezing and dry heat climates during the course of the year, the Duoro grapes must grow in somewhat harsh conditions.
It is during these harsh conditions that a grape produces resveratrol as a protectant. The fewer the chemicals and the harsher the environment, the more resveratrol is produced. Resveratrol is the antioxidant that is currently credited to what makes red wine healthy. The presence of resveratrol gives port wine the same characteristics red wines have.
Does the process make port wine healthy?
Port Wine is made two different ways. One way truly enhances the health benefits of port wine, the other diminishes the value considerably.
Aging is part of the value of Port Wine. Without aging the sugars don’t mix, the fermentation doesn’t complete the port wine fails to blossom. So aging is a critical step and there are two ways port wine is aged.
1. Reductive aging. Reductive aging is when the wine is sealed in tanks with absolutely no exposure to oxygen. This is the ‘gold’ standard of aging process. Without oxygen the antioxidants remain so and are ready when corked to actively stop free radical damage in the body.
2. Oxidative aging is when oxygen is allowed to mix with the port wine during the aging process. It is in fact part of that process. While oxidative aging does great things for the flavor, allowing oxygen to frolic with the antioxidants in the wine means the antioxidants get oxidized and are therefore not useful in the human body.
Read more to learn what is resveratrol and why is it important to really grasp why reductive aging is best.
To recap: the formula here is to find a port wine that was produced under the most adverse of conditions and don’t oxidize the aging process.
What about the alcohol in port wine?
Unfortunately alcohol doesn’t contribute too much, especially the health benefits of port wine. Alcohol on most accounts is just empty calories that don’t lead to much value.
In the case of port wine, with the addition of the sugars in Brandy and the sugar that doesn’t get fermented, the true antioxidant-based health benefits go away.
In fact if you’re looking for the health benefits of drinking wine, I’d start there and skip port wine completely.
Author: Dan R Morris