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Biological Chemistry

Drought Boosts Resveratrol In Cabernets

A water deficit boosts production of one form of the beneficial compound resveratrol in wine grapes

by Sarah Everts
December 13, 2010 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 88, ISSUE 50

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A Franco-American research team led by Grant R. Cramer at the University of Nevada, Reno, has taken a stab at finding out how to increase levels of the beneficial compound resveratrol in wine, discovering that a little drought does wonders for boosting biosynthesis of the molecule in cabernet sauvignon grapes (J. Agric. Food Chem., DOI: 10.1021/jf1024888). The famous “French paradox”—the country’s low incidence of heart disease being at odds with the widespread consumption of high-fat foods—is usually explained by pointing to resveratrol, a polyphenolic component of red wine that exhibits anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties in humans. While trying to boost levels of resveratrol in viticulture, the team stumbled upon their own paradox, namely that even though a water deficit produces five times more trans-piceid—the glycosylated form of resveratrol—in cabernet sauvignon grapes, the same does not hold true for chardonnay grapes. In fact, the team found that some biosynthetic genes that were activated by drought in cabernet sauvignon showed a decline in activity under the same conditions in chardonnay.

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