When Wine meets Wellness

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When Wine meets Wellness: a journey through the centuries

Grapes are the fruits of Energy, and a highly energizing one! They are particularly rich in calories: 72 calories per 100 gr, and with the highest sugar content: 15-18gr fructose and glucose per 100 gr.

Wine sketch by Lesley Smith
Wine sketch by Lesley Smith

Grape juice is ideal for breakfast as it provides immediately available energy.  In addition to sugars, this fruit also contains a high percentage of B Vitamins (B1, B3 and B5), not too much Vit C but a good amount of Potassium (K) and other minerals such as Calcium and Magnesium. Moreover, grapes are rich in micronutrients: Copper, Manganese, Iodine, Zinc and Fluorine.

The benefits of grapes do not end here.  The solid parts of the fruit: peel, stalks and pips, are rich in polyphenols. These are antioxidants that give wine numerous therapeutic properties such as protection from cardiovascular diseases. They also have a detox activity by helping diuresis and stimulating the intestinal tract. Moreover, they are very important for the beauty industry,  thanks to their strong anti-ageing effects.

Vines have been growing spontaneously in many parts of the world but, the type used for making wine, has been “created” over the centuries.  For a long time, the major wine-producing countries made no distinction between table grapes and wine grapes. It was around 1800 that table grapes started to be present in all homes.

WINE photo by Lesley Erika Smith
WINE photo by Lesley Erika Smith

In Italy, after the First World War, the cultivation of table grapes moved from the hills of Veneto and Piedmont to South of Italy, where climatic conditions were better.  In recent years, Italy is the world’s largest exporter of table grapes thanks to the abundant productions in Puglia and Sicily

From Vine to Wine

In Italy, vine seeds found between the Po and Apennines date back to the Bronze Age and our  country was the first to learn the difficult art of wine making.   In Sicily and the South of Italy, in the VIII and VII century BC, the plant was so widespread that ancient Greeks called Magna Grecia, “Enotria”

It was then thanks to Etruscans that cultivation reached a highly advanced level.  It was only later that the Romans learnt to make wine from the Etruscans.

Gods’ Nectar

Wine was a popular drink in Egypt, Greece and with the Etruscan and Roman world.

WINE Sketch by Lesley Erika Smith
WINE Sketch by Lesley Erika Smith

Since its first appearance, the wine immediately became so appreciated that it was wrapped in a mystical aura.  Ancient Greeks believed in a specific divinity linked to wine and grapes: Dionysus. According to the  legend,  the young god planted the first vineyard with his own hands and followed the stages up to the production of the wine. He let the nymphs  taste the drink.  They immediately felt a sense of joy as if they were under a spell. That’s why Greeks associated wine with happiness and Dionysius was celebrated in wonderful Spring festival held every year.

Etruscans had their god called  Funflus, and celebrations very similar to the Greeks.  For the ancient Romans, Dionysus, or Funflus,  was called  Baccus and  wine festivals were replaced by “ Baccanali”.   We can say that with the Romans, the drink lost its spiritual aura and became a common drink.  It is only with the arrival of Christianity  that wine found its sacred character once again

Wine as Farmaka

Centuries ago, wine was used to treat various health conditions as well as to ease pain and sadness. The Egyptians, for instance, began using wine to clean abdominal cavities during mummification.  Greeks used it more often as a drink, as it was safer than water, that was easily contaminated.   Moreover, wine and vinegar in Greece were used to wash, disinfect and marinate food .

Ippocrate, the father of modern medicine, was the first to attribute diuretic properties to white wine and often referred to wine as an appetite stimulator and tonic.

Vino photography by L E Smith
Vino photography by L E Smith

In Rome, Plinio il Vecchio, historian and naturalist, talks about numerous properties of the vine components such as leaves, grape seeds and pulp amongst others.

During the Middle age, medieval monasteries were convinced that their monks lived longer than the rest of the population ,partly because of their moderate, regular consumption of wine.

Samaritan Balm & Mariani Wine

Do you know that In 1742, in “Farmacopea Universale”, by Nicolas Lemery, we find, for the first time, the written recipe of the so-called  Samaritan Balm?  This preparation, made of equal parts of  olive oil and red wine , is the first wine based formula that can be considered as a medicine and it was indicated to disinfect wounds, remove phlegm and as a general tonic.

Later on, the “wine Balm” was added to plant extracts, thus creating numerous medicinal solutions for various aliments (Cinnamon wine, Gentian wine to stimulate appetite, Absinthe wine as vermicide, Quinine wine to reduce temperature…) Basically in these preparations, wine was the carrier to enhance the effects of herbs.

vinaccioli
vinaccioli

Morevore, have you ever heard of the Mariani Wine? In 1863, in Italy, doctor Angelo Mariani created the Mariani Wine: a strong tonic whose formula was made with Bordeaux wine  and coca leaves left to macerate.

After having been considered a powerful natural remedy for centuries, modern science has indicated that there is some truth in wine benefits.

Vigneti autunno
Vigneti autunno

However, any health benefits only apply to moderate drinking  and, of course, some people should not drink at all.  There is scientific evidence that a moderate use of red wine acts as immune stimulant helping us to fight infections and  the ageing process.

Can you think of any good reason not to have a good glass of wine today?

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