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Antioxidants in Cabernet Vs. Merlot

By Barbara Aufiero

Antioxidants protect the cells and tissues in our bodies from damage. Red wines, such as cabernet and merlot, are high in antioxidants. Since these wines are made from different varieties of grapes, the types and levels of antioxidants between the two wines are not the same. If you enjoy drinking red wine, the American Heart Association recommends a daily limit of 4 ounces for women and 8 ounces for men.

Important Factors

Cultivation and weather conditions are important factors in the antioxidant content of grapes, but genetic differences among varieties play a greater role. Darker colored grapes have higher levels of anthocyanin pigments, which give them their red, purple and blue colors and contribute to their level of antioxidant activity, according to Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Wine made from red grapes tend to have more antioxidants than wine made from white or green grapes. Additionally, purple grapes are higher in antioxidants than red grapes.

Types of Grapes

Cabernet is made from the cabernet sauvignon grape variety. These grapes are dark red and purple with a thick skin. Merlot is made from grapes in the Gironde-Bordeaux wine-growing region. These grapes are red and thin-skinned, and ripen earlier than the Cabernet sauvignon variety. According to a 2011 study published in "Biotechnology & Biotechnology Equipment," the skin of the Cabernet sauvignon grapes have higher antioxidant content than the skin of the grapes used to make merlot.

Phenolic Content

Polyphenols are antioxidant compounds in grapes that influence the color and taste of wine. In a 2009 study published in "Food Chemistry," researchers found a strong relationship between antioxidants and phenolic content. Red wines were higher in both antioxidants and phenolic content than white wines. Specifically, cabernet had the greatest number of antioxidants of the 37 wines studied.


Resveratrol is a type of antioxidant that plants produce to defend themselves from infection, injury and fungi. Grapes and red wine are high in resveratrol. Studies have found that resveratrol reduces the development of tumors and the spread of cancer cells, according to the National Cancer Institute. A 2003 study published by "Drugs Under Experimental and Clinical Research" compared levels of resveratrol in 19 red wines. Researchers found the highest concentration of resveratrol in merlot.

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