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Drink to Your Health: The Heart-Healthy Benefits of Wine

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Red wine: The drink of choice for gourmets and connoisseurs, pretentious poseurs, and, lately, the health-conscious set. White and sparkling wines have started to seem like the ugly stepsisters of their scarlet sibling, but we're here to tell you that they, too, have their health benefits.

How It's Made

When making wine, "you're basically converting sugar to alcohol," says Rodney Schatz, a third-generation grape farmer and chairman of the California Association of Winegrape Growers. To make red wine, red grapes are harvested at a certain Brix level, which indicates the percentage of sugar in the grape. Grapes are then crushed and left to ferment in a tank with added yeasts. To extract the desired tannins, colors, and flavors, temperature is controlled and the speed of fermentation is manipulated as juice is pumped over the skins.

White winemaking applies the same basic process as that of red wine, except the grape skins are removed before fermentation. "You're not looking for flavor from the skin, as you are with the red," explains Schatz. "You're looking for more flavor from the meat of the grape."

To make sparkling wine, such as Champagne, "you're taking finished wine and you're refermenting it," says Schatz. During the normal fermentation process, carbon dioxide is naturally given off to the air. During the second fermentation of sparkling wine in the bottle, the carbon dioxide is not released, giving the drink its natural effervescence.

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