The extracts, Classico and Comtempo, provide an alternative to using and reducing the content of wine in applications such as soups, sauces, entrées, desserts and confectionery items. The company claims that both extracts, which have been de-alcoholized, remain consistent in flavor and color.
"With the launch of this new global range of wine extracts, we hope to assist our customers in the prepared food industry in leveraging global capabilities," said Olivier Kapetanakos, vice president, business development for flavors at Chr Hansen.
But perhaps the most significant advantage for the food manufacturer is the fact that such extracts will allow them to label their products as containing "wine extract," a phrase that consumers increasingly associate with health.
Indeed, a recent US report confirmed that a key compound in red wine could have a direct beneficial effect on heart cells. Joshua Bomser, a study co-author and an assistant professor of human nutrition at Ohio State University, suggested that the potent antioxidant resveratrol may have a protective effect on the heart by limiting the effects of a condition called cardiac fibrosis.
Such studies provide solid backup to food industry claims that wine, and for that matter wine extracts, should be viewed as health-beneficial ingredients.
The Classico and Contempo range also addresses the need of food manufacturers to differentiate their products in an increasingly competitive global marketplace. Consumers are increasingly aware of what they eat, and they also want something a little exotic. Chr Hansen believes that a product containing real wine extract would satisfy both these intersecting trends.
"Wine extracts are derived from the further processing of wine, and provide value in a variety of ways," said Otis Curtis, director of marketing for meat and prepared foods for Chr Hansen in North America.
"To the customer, the standardized product offers consistent quality without the seasonal variations found in wine. The Classico and Contempo wine extracts offer a cost effective alternative to using and reducing wine, and provide a cooked, strong oak with a mild hint of fruity raisin-like note in the end product."
There still remains some debate over the extent to which wine offers consumers significant health benefits. Some researchers have suggested that the social status of the wine drinker could be just as important as any health-giving benefits of the alcohol.
"It is also known from a number of studies that wine drinkers in many cultures are from a higher socio-economic status and have a better diet than non-wine drinkers," said Professor Morten Grønbæk, author of an article that was published in the Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis earlier this year.
But a recent trial pitching red wine against gin suggests that wine does indeed have heart health benefits over other alcoholic drinks. The study, published in the July 2004 issue of Atherosclerosis (175(1):117-23), found that both alcoholic beverages had anti-inflammatory effects but when people drank red wine, levels of inflammatory substances were reduced to a much greater extent.
These 'inflammatory' substances are risk factors in the development of heart disease and stroke. The researchers from the University of Barcelona noted that red wine contains many complex compounds including polyphenols that are absent from gin.