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wine with a healthy diet

Though food and health scares come and go, the beneficial properties of light to moderate alcohol consumption now seem well established. In particular, red wine has been singled out as potentially reducing the risk of heart disease by moderating the amount of cholesterol deposited in the arteries. Indeed, recent research at the University of Glasgow by Doctor Alan Crozier and his team has gone so far as to specify the red wines of Chile as the best "medicine" the wine-lover can enjoy. It seems that a helpful substance found in fruity red wines called "flavonoids" shows up in abundance in a nice Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon.

Wine is also shown to be health-promoting in various other ways. At its simplest, when drunk with food it stimulates the gastric juices and aids the digestive process. Some research suggests that wine can help combat everything from migraines (a de-toxifying substance called PST-P apparantly) to cancer (claims that wine contains an anti-cancer agent known as quercetin).

As one who mixes every latest health and food scare with a large pinch of cynicism, I'll continue to enjoy my wine for far more mundane reasons. Though in fact, Dr. Crozier's research on flavenoids was published in the same month that a separate study declared high-quality dark chocolate (of 70% cocoa solids or greater) to be another beneficial substance for the old ticker: that was a month of double celebration for me!

This month's prescription should be taken in moderation, preferably with food:
UK stockist are given, with prices in pounds sterling (approx £5=$8US)

Whites

Sainsbury's White Bordeaux
Cheap supermarket Bordeaux is often a safer bet for whites than reds. This has a nose of lemon and peach, with a slightly grassy note. The palate is balanced and fresh with plenty of citrus fruit, but also a buttery softness in the mouth that makes it very drinkable on its own, with fish or maybe with healthy, low-fat Chinese food. Sainsbury £3.29

Capelands Chardonnay 1998
Easy, approachable Chardonnay from South Africa with peachy, nutty softness and a palate that's silky and sweetly-fruited. There's a nice balance through crisp lime acidity, gentle oaky flavours and it has decent length. At the price, very good indeed. Peckhams (Scotland) £3.99.

Landmark "Overlook" Chardonnay 1996
A huge leap in price, but also in quality for this fine Californian wine. Sensational leesy, toasty, charred oak nose with a mass of unctuous figgy fruit, with nuances of Jack Daniels whiskey barrels. On the palate there are brazil nuts, cinnamon and apples and a clean, mineral streak through the centre. Serious, oaky stuff. Oddbins £12.99

Reds

Zagara Nero D'Avola/Sangiovese 1998
From Sicily, this beautifully made red brims with fruit, yet is savoury and food-friendly. The nose has cherries, vanilla and hints of aromatic violets. The palate is medium-bodied and there's a lovely ripeness of cherry and raspberry fruit overlaid with sweet oak, tobacco, spice and chocolate. Sainsbury/Safeway £3.99

Fontein Cinsaut/Merlot 1998
Another South African wine, this has attractive, light raspberry fruit on the nose that is jammy and ripe, yet there's a spiciness and darker, earthy hints that add a lot of interest. On the palate it is quite firm with some tannins and moderate oak that adds a creamy texture to the red fruit flavours. Oddbins £4.49

Viña El Salado 1998
With its deep ruby colour and darkly-scented nose of pepper, tobacco and black fruits this Spanish beauty is a value for money choice. The palate is silky and round with a solid core of blackberry fruit and ripe tannins filling-out the finish. A very good effort from a region previously known for rather dried-out, old-fashioned wines. Surely high in those healthy flavenoids? Majestic £4.49