In a recent report certain to give oenophiles pause, researchers with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences tout blueberry wine as higher in heart-healthy antioxidants than the vast majority of wines made from grapes.
That’s good news for blueberry growers like C. Joseph Keel, president and CEO of Keel & Curley Winery in Plant City, who last year sold 300,000 bottles of blueberry wine, mostly through Publix Super Markets locations in Florida.
Keel, an Irish-American who farms 30 acres of blueberries, has seen a steady increase in sales in the nine years he’s commercially bottled wine made from slightly damaged berries too blemished to sell for the fresh market.
Like other growers around the country used to discarding damaged berries, Keel discovered he still could profit off the fruit by making wine.
News of the IFAS study gives him hope for a bump in sales.
“Apparently blueberry wine is better for you,” he said, standing outside his winery complex, where stacks of stainless steel vats store the deep, purple liquid that to a wine connoisseur is more gimmick than handicraft.
“Will it help our sales? I think it will,” Keel said.
More and more research points to the blueberry’s attributes as a superfruit, rich in dietary fiber, vitamin C and antioxidants, compounds that neutralize the unstable molecules linked to cancer, cardiovascular and memory diseases.
A team at UF’s IFAS led by Wade Yang, assistant professor of food science and human nutrition, looked at antioxidants in wine made from southern highbush blueberries, which are common to Florida.
Yang said his research found that wine made from southern highbush berries had more antioxidants than white wine and all but 20 percent of the reported values for red wines, which also are high in antioxidants.
“We don’t want to discount every single red wine,” he said. “(But) this report definitely will be very beneficial to the blueberry wine industry. It actually carries a very positive message.”
Yang said his team of researchers used a method called oxygen radical absorbance capacity to test the antioxidant activity of a sample of Florida-produced blueberry wine.
It was the first study that looked at antioxidants in wine from southern highbush blueberries, according to a university news release. “Previous studies have examined the antioxidant content of wine from northern varieties, and found the values comparable to southern blueberry wine,” the release said.