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Drugs Exp Clin Res. 1999;25(2-3):57-63.

Stilbene compounds: from the grapevine to wine.

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Institute of Viticulture, Università Cattolica S. Cuore, Piacenza, Italy.


Stilbenes are natural compounds occurring in a number of plant families, including Vitaceae and (within this family) Vitis vinifera L., which is the most important species grown worldwide for grape and wine production. Stilbenes (resveratrol and viniferins) are present in grapevine as constitutive compounds of the woody organs (roots, canes, stems) and as induced substances (in leaves and fruit) acting as phytoalexins in the mechanisms of grape resistance against certain pathogens. Resveratrol (3, 5, 4'-trihydroxystilbene) was also detected in wine and it was thought to be the active principle of red wines that were shown to reduce heart diseases. This paper reviews data, obtained by the Viticulture Institute of the Catholic University at Piacenza and taken from the literature, on some aspects of stilbene physiology in grapevine and on their relation to resveratrol wine levels. Constitutive stilbene contents of woody organs are reported, as well as the possible role of cluster stems as a source of resveratrol for wine. The accumulation of stilbenes in grape berries infected by grey mould (Botrytis cinerea Pers.) has been investigated and the effects of environmental factors on resveratrol grape and wine levels will be discussed. An unidentified new hydroxystilbene was detected in wine.

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