If you need an excuse to pop the cork on a bottle of bubbly this festive season, here it is: It's good for your heart.
British academics have found that champagne is packed with polyphenols - plant chemicals thought to widen the blood vessels, easing the strain on your heart and brain. And researchers believe the health benefits aren't limited to the expensive stuff but are also found in cheaper alternatives such as cava and prosecco.
The Reading University study builds on earlier findings that two glasses of red wine a day help keep heart and circulatory problems at bay. Polyphenols are believed to boost the levels of the gas nitric oxide in the blood, which then widens the blood vessels. They are found in relatively high levels in red wine but not in white.
Champagne, however, is most commonly made from a blend of red grape varieties pinot meunier or pinot noir and white chardonnay. Researcher Dr Jeremy Spencer said: 'The question was would champagne have the same impact as red wine or would it have the limited impact of white wine?' He showed that champagne had a far bigger impact on nitric oxide levels than a polyphenol-free 'dummy drink' of alcohol mixed with carbonated water.