By Jill Brooke
In honor of International Merlot Day, we would like to lift our glasses to the joys of this ruby-colored elixir.
Not only does wine enhance a meal or mark a celebration, but it also has health benefits too.
And to talk about wine, it’s always good to have a few floral terms to throw around. Those will come in handy when the conversation is going south at a party. If you are sitting next to someone who is a bore and a snore, try this. “Not only does this Syrah have all those healthy phenols, but I detect a delicious note of lavender. And you?”
Wine lovers use that term to describe the aroma that comes from the types of grapes used. After fermentation, different grapes have notes that are suggestive of flowers. Common floral notes for red wines include:
The Nebbiolo grape, which has a rose note, is famous as the basis for big, bold Barolo and Barbaresco wines. Rose can also be discerned in a variety of red and white wines including Gewürztraminer, Gamay, Pinot Noir, Grenache and Sangiovese.
If it grows together, it goes together. Plus lavender is so hot now thanks to Taylor Swift’s “Lavender Haze.” Lavender often grows alongside vineyards in Southern France, Spain and Italy. It is not surprising, therefore, that lavender is a characteristic note in the Grenache grape, which is widely grown in the warmer regions of France, and in Spain and Italy. Other grapes with lavender notes include Syrah, Mourvedre, Malbec and Tempranillo.
Fine red wines such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from the Bordeaux region have notes of violet. Other examples include Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc.
“You’re not necessarily looking for flowers when you are enjoying wine,” says wine critic D.D. Rice of The Girls’ Guide to Paris. “However, it is sometimes this unexpected element that elevates the experience. As the wine ages, the fresh floral component will diminish. But it’s a nice addition to make the younger wines more special.”
Other notes from a variety of other flowers exist in wine – including citrus blossom, acacia and iris – but are found in white wines and champagnes.
Red wine is actually more healthy than white wine, and here is why.
Medical studies suggest that drinking a glass will raise levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for heart health and type-2 diabetes as well as improving healthy blood vessels and blood pressure.
The tannins found in red wine also contain procyanidins – also called phenols – which neutralize free radicals. As you hear in yoga classes, it’s all about the flow. Basically, the wine improves blood vessel health which improves the flow so nothing gets stuck and causes problems.
The procyanidins in red wine that promote a healthy heart also promote lower cholesterol. Red wine also has resveratrol, derived from the skin of the red grape, which reduces LDL – bad cholesterol – and increases HDL – good cholesterol.
Because red wine has high levels of silicon, it increases bone density and reduces the onslaught of osteoporosis. (Attention beer drinkers: beer has more.)
That’s because it prevents blood clotting. Wine truly is a natural blood thinner. It contains phenols that act as a blood thinner in a similar way as aspirin. According to a John Hopkins University Medical Center study, the aforementioned resveratrol also helps prevent blood clotting. Interesting tidbit. The study noted that it’s more beneficial and effective with women than men.
The built-in antioxidants combat those nasty free radicals that allow cancer to thrive. And here’s a nice stat. According to a Harvard Medical School study, men who drink four to seven glasses of red wine a week are only 52 percent as likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Studies also say that red wine helps create a shield against colon and breast cancer.
That sounds hyperbolic, I know. But red wine has an abundance of calcium, which adults lose as they age. Also, the aforementioned resveratrol reportedly activates a protein that acts as an anti-aging agent. It basically clears the system and improves flow … of everything. Brain function is enhanced, although that could also be because, once relaxed, the brain can focus on tasks that need to be accomplished. Turns out, the calcium boost may help you go to sleep at night, too.
And let’s not forget that wine tastes good. The flavors of wine enhance a meal, and give you a buzz. Wine naturally relaxes people, putting them in a more jovial mood. That obviously reduces stress and anxiety. Another bonus indeed.
My personal favorite is a Pinot Noir from Flowers Vineyard on the Sonoma Coast. Okay, not a surprise. With a company name like Flowers, I am going to be automatically predisposed to liking these wines.
I also am a fan of Botanica Wines which was created on a protea farm in South Africa. We appreciate not only their award-winning wines but also that they are committed to the principles of regenerative agriculture, a next-generation system of organic farming that increases soil fertility as well. In fact, the team has created habitats with flowering shrubs and plants to attract birds and insects too.
Founded in 2009 by Ginny Povall, a self-taught winemaker, her farm not only creates eight types of protea but also many wines including the award-winning Big Flower Merlot.
With all that is going on in the world, a good day to sip a merlot. Cheers.
Jill Brooke is a former CNN correspondent, Post columnist and editor-in-chief of Avenue and Travel Savvy magazine. She is an author and the editorial director of FPD, floral editor for Aspire Design and Home magazine and contributor to Florists Review magazine.