What are the health benefits and food applications of wine by-products?

The wine industry generates 20 million tons of secondary products annually, which corresponds to about 30% of the total amount of vinified grapes. Healthy bioactive molecules (e.g. polyphenols) are abundant in these by-products. This opens a promising avenue for food production in the future.

Study: By-products of the wine industry: food industry applications and health benefits. Image credit: Rostislav_Sedlacek/Shutterstock

Recently Antioxidants The article examines the various health benefits and food industry applications of wine industry by-products.


Grape pomace (GP) and wine lees are the key waste streams of nutritional interest. GP consists of stems, skins and seeds and is a great source of phenolic compounds. The liquid phase is also rich in ethanol and organic acids. Wine lees also have important biological and antioxidant properties.

Considering the high nutritional value of wine by-products, these compounds should be reused in the food industry and for the fortification of products consumed in the Mediterranean diet (MD). MD is low in consumption of animal products and is a mostly plant-based diet. It also has low greenhouse gas emissions and little impact on the environment. The use of secondary products such as polyphenols from GP has the dual benefit of being beneficial to human health and also environmentally friendly.

Applications in the food industry

Wine by-products have a good taste and an attractive color, which facilitates their use in the development of new food products with many health benefits. New food products can also be substitutes for traditional synthetic supplements.

The roots, leaves, and seeds of the vine have been widely used as food preservatives and flavoring agents. In some cultures, they are also part of traditional medicine. The high polyphenolic component is responsible for the antioxidant, antimicrobial, anticancer and anti-inflammatory effects. These compounds can also be extracted from wine by-products and applied in the food industry to ensure product safety, increase shelf life and prevent microbial spoilage.

The addition of GP powder to replace flour during the enrichment process of wheat bread has improved the physical properties and bioactive potential of the pasta and bread. In the case of fortified waters and infusions, the bioactivity of GP was also evaluated.

In the context of dairy products, GP serves as a coagulant in the production of tofu and reduces the fat content of cheese. More broadly, wine byproducts have served as a source of functional compounds in the formulation of yogurts, ice creams, and fermented milks, among other products.

Research shows that adding GP powder to biscuits increases protein content and decreases free fatty acids. GP is a major source of fiber and polyphenols, and adding GP can be an alternative to gluten-free products. As for non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages, there is limited research on the role of wine by-products. However, recently GP extracts have been used to produce a functional coconut beverage. Despite the controversial health effects of beer, white GP beers have been shown to have higher concentrations of phenolic compounds and antioxidant properties. Additionally, these beers also contain lower amounts of a toxic compound, namely acetaldehyde.

Health benefits

A few in vitro, in vivo, and clinical studies have documented the health benefits of fortifying food with byproducts from the wine industry. Specifically, research shows that food products with wine byproducts or extracts show anti-inflammatory, cardioprotective, antioxidant and anticancer properties.

The ability of wine byproducts to modulate the inflammatory process and scavenge free radicals has been demonstrated in preclinical studies. This is achieved by inhibiting the key inflammatory mediator, NFκB. Proinflammatory enzymes, such as MAPK, COX-2, and protein kinase-C, are also inhibited.

Wine byproducts increase anti-inflammatory cytokines and have a mitigating effect on inflammatory cytokines. Foods with these compounds hold tremendous promise for preventing chronic disease. It is essential to understand the molecular mechanism of action, the nature of wine byproduct compounds and their appropriate combinations to induce bioactivity. More epidemiological, preclinical and follow-up studies are needed to explore the maximum nutritional potential of wine by-products.


Implementation of sustainable practices is rare, although scientists, winemakers and politicians talk about sustainability. The use of wine by-products is a golden opportunity to enrich food and derive economic, social and environmental benefits. The present study argues that producers and the scientific community should look for profitable and sustainable options by maximizing the use of by-products and minimizing the disposal of the waste stream.

Winery management must embrace the recovery and recycling of valuable ingredients and the production of new products. The purpose of this review article is to bring together all relevant stakeholders and inspire them to develop truly commercialized applications.

Journal reference:

Ferrer-Gallego, R. and Silva, P. (2022) Wine by-products: Food industry applications and health benefits. Antioxidants. do: https://doi.org/10.3390/antiox11102025 https://www.mdpi.com/2076-3921/11/10/2025

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