Although Tannat, an ancient vinifera grape variety, is virtually unknown abroad Uruguay’s strategy
of promoting it as the country’s signature wine grape has positioned it to successfully compete
throughout the world.
1. It has significantly higher polyphenol content than other red grapes, making it the
most bioactive variety with regards to oxidative reactions in food functional properties.
Doctors recommend Tannat as being the best wine grape for the cardiopulmonary system
as it contains a large amount of the antioxidant procyanidin, a chemical which helps
bolster blood vessels and increase oxygen flow to red blood cells, ultimately helping to avert many cardiovascular diseases.
2. Uruguay is the region where the highest percentage of this variety was planted since
1870s, today representing 25% of Uruguay's quality wine grapes.
During the past decade many epidemiological studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet
appears to have beneficial effects on cardiovascular diseases, which have has been labeled as the
'French Paradox' [St. Legere et al, 1979]. These studies have also indicated that dietary habits
could influence the incidence or evolution of pathologies such as neurodegenerative disorders
[Youdim et al, 2002], in which oxidative stress has been identified as a main contributor.
The regular and moderate consumption of wine, especially red wine, appears to be one of the main
reasons for these potential health effects.
Flavonoids such as catechin, epicatechin, and procyanidins contribute to the major antioxidant
activity of red wines in the prevention of LDL cholesterol oxidation [Teissedre et al, 1996]. The
amount of flavonoids in red wine depends upon the grape variety, cultivation area, sun exposure,
wine-making technique, and wine age
[Auger et al, 2004; Burns et al, 2000; Dell´agli et al, 2004].
Stilbene derivatives present in red wines such as resveratrol are also postulated as the
compounds responsible for the 'French Paradox'. The measurement of resveratrol levels in Tannat
wines found an average of 2.7 mg/l, a higher value than reported for Pinot Noir, Merlot. and
Cabernet wines [Gu et al, 1999].
More recently, Corder et al.  used cultured endothelial cells to identify the most potent
vasoactive polyphenols in red wine. High-performance liquid chromatography, coupled with mass
spectrometry, showed these compounds to be straight-chain B-type oligomeric procyanidins
(OPCs) and the authors mention that the higher OPC concentration in wines are found in the Tannat.
In other research Uruguayan Tannat wines were shown to have one of the highest levels of
phenolic compounds reported for vinifera grape varieties [Boido et al, 2011]. The anthocyanin
profile of grapes, young wines, and wine aging have been characterized and compared with other
grape varieties [Alcalde-Eon et al, 2006; Boido et al, 2006]. More recently, the profiles for
different polyphenol families and OPC present in Tannat grapes (skins and seeds) and wines were
determined all along the maturation process of the grapes in Uruguayan vineyards
[Boido et al, 2011].
Antioxidant compounds found in the skin
and seeds of red grapes
Protect human cells from oxidative
damage caused by molecules called free
Research on the antioxidants found in red
wine has shown that they may help inhibit
the development of certain diseases.
*From Wines of Uruguay.