Forget Botox

Red wine's the new fountain of youth

In America's never ending search for the elusive anti-age goop, there's good news for those willing to raise a glass. Recently, a Harvard Medical School study announced another benefit associated with drinking red wine: It extends life. OK, so far the treatment only works in microscopic baker's yeast and fruit flies, but mice are next, and humans won't be far behind.

In the study, yeasts and fruit flies received regular doses of a molecule present in red grape skins called resveratrol. It heightens levels of an enzyme called Sir2, the substance scientists believe boosts life span. During fermentation, resveratrol gets released from the skins into the budding wine, resulting in a high concentration of the beneficial substance. White grape skins contain resveratrol as well, but since the grape juice doesn't come into lengthy contact with the skins during the fermentation process, the lower levels aren't as useful. The same goes for grape juice.

The benefits of wine emerged from the cellar and into the mainstream when 60 Minutes aired its now famous "French Paradox" piece in 1991. The story reported on numerous studies exploring the low incidence of heart disease among the French, despite a diet rich in butter, cream and croissants. I always thought it was their enviable short and low-stress workweek, but it turns out their consumption levels of wine as well as their smaller portion sizes help keep their veins free of fatty deposits.

But this new study expands the health appeal of red wine beyond those with coronary concerns to everyone seeking a longer life. And who doesn't want that?

So how does a non-wine drinker wade into the red wine section enjoyably?

The typical entry level for wine is sweeter white wine, so jumping right into red wines like big-boy Cabernet Sauvignon can be an astringent experience at best. But there are fruitful options.

Australia makes a bright, fruit-laden red wine called Shiraz. Although there are exceptions, Shiraz is easy drinking and deliciously approachable. It's also made by several different inexpensive wineries available at most grocery stores. If you're looking for variety, try those blended with Grenache.

Zinfandel, although the big, high-alcohol versions are probably too much for the uninitiated, also comes in a light version. Some have fruit flying in your face, giving you the sensation of sweetness, so this might be the perfect entry point for those looking for deep flavor. Larger Zin producers offer light prices too.

For some foreign flare, you might explore soft Italian reds, like Valpolicella or Dolcetto. Besides being fun to pronounce, they're fruity like strawberry jam, gentle and sociable.

Until the researchers reverse the study results, drink and be red-wine merry. This anti-aging method is certainly cheaper and more fun than Botox.

Here's a list of readily available, easy-drinking, entry-level red wines, most under $10. They are generally very consistent year after year, so don't worry about vintages.

Wine Editor Taylor Eason can be reached at 813-248-8888 ext. 162 or [email protected]

Recommended Wines

Rosemount Estates Grenache Shiraz ($8)

Rancho Zabaco Dancing Bull Zinfandel ($10) 1/2

Ravenswood Zinfandel ($10) 1/2

Yellow Tail Shiraz ($7)

Zeni Valpolicella ($9)