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When wine has a thirst for research. © FOTOLIA, Fotolia

When wine has a thirst for research

Updated on 06/20/2017
Published on 11/08/2013

France is the leading wine producer in the world, and reputed for this symbol of gastronomy and the art of living.  Wine is the most widely consumed alcoholic drink in France.  INRA conducts its research on wine and oenology in its own vineyards, on its experimental plots or in laboratories based in the heart of French wine regions, as close as possible to actors in this industry.  From the perception of wine to its production, from our glasses to the grape, this document is devoted to all aspects of wine.

Although they are constantly enriching their knowledge of the chemistry of wine, INRA scientists have also been the inventors of technological processes that are already disseminated throughout the world.  The removal of alcohol, the Flash détente process, aroma capture, tangential microfiltration, etc., are all innovations that can optimise the production, stabilisation and packaging of wine.  But INRA is also in the forefront when it comes to understanding the links between a wine and its terroir, and proposing scenarios for adaptation to climate change.  Today, one of its priority research areas is to ensure a transition towards viticulture that uses the fewest possible inputs and produces wine containing a minimum of additives.

Wine and health 

Is drinking wine good for your health?  This is a thorny problem.  In France, wine accounts for two-thirds of all the alcohol consumed by individuals.  Twenty years ago, the concept of the French paradox was born of the observation that despite identical risk factors, French people benefited from better cardiovascular health than their neighbours in northern Europe or among Americans.  International studies focused on certain components in wine (such as particular polyphenols) and suggested their protective effects on our cardiovascular system.  But it is not that simple, because the cardiovascular health of an individual results from both genetic and behavioural factors, such as diet, physical activity, alcohol consumption or smoking, etc.  

In the context of this complex relationship between wine and health, cancer has been the subject of numerous studies which have shown that the risk of onset of cancer (upper airways, colon, breast or liver) increases statistically significantly as from an average consumption of 10 grammes of alcohol (or one standard glass) per day.  The risk increases in line with the amount of alcohol consumed.  INRA and INSERM researchers studied the consumption of alcoholic beverages, including wine, by 29,566 adults belonging to the NutriNet-Sante cohort.  They demonstrated that the share of wine in alcohol intake increased in line with age and income, and observed that people consuming more than 10 grammes of alcohol per day cumulated more risk factors for cancer (e.g. age, smoking, excess weight, sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, etc.) than those consuming less alcohol.  This observation demonstrates the importance of increasing efforts with respect to prevention.