Ómar Gunnarsson, a 49 year-old native of Húsavík, is the only winemaker in Iceland, and the only one in the world to produce a wine made entirely from organic crowberries, wild blueberries and rhubarb making his wine highly unique due to its powerful anti-oxidant/anti-aging ingredients. His label, Kvöldsól, which means "Midnight Sun" in Icelandic, not only tastes like wine made from grapes, it's more delicious and healthier for you.
Gunnarsson is a learned culinary chef and was always interested in making his own wine. He started experimenting in 1991 and seven years later, he stumbled upon his secret recipe by "pure luck." Made with 80% crowberries, 19% rhubarb, the rest wild blueberries and Icelandic herbs (the exact ingredients he will not divulge), Gunnarsson launched his label in 2001 with 6,000 bottles. There are only 100 bottles left from that inaugural vintage year and Gunnarsson says anyone is welcome to make him an offer he can't refuse.
"The berries come from the area around Húsavík and the west fjords in Iceland. The rhubarb is grown in small privately owned gardens from all around Iceland. Everything in my wine has to be fresh and organic, it's very important," he says. A study conducted by the Division of Pharmacognosy, University of Helsinki on the biological activity of plants with phenolic compounds, found that crowberries, a low growing evergreen native to Iceland, have high flavonoid activity due to the flavonols, chalcones and dihydrochalcones the plant contains. Flavonoids are potent antioxidants that absorb oxygen-based free radicals caused by UV radiation. Flavonoids also eliminate heavy metals, inhibit lipid peroxidation associated cholesterol production and prevent leukotrine formation associated with inflammatory processes in the body.
Because they contain flavonoids, crowberries may hold promise as an important new nutriceutical. Free radical damage is believed to contribute to a variety of health problems, including cancer, heart disease and aging.Both crowberries and blueberries also contain ellagic acid, a phenolic compound which has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels and also decrease the risk of certain types of cancers.
Rhubarb stalks are rich phytochemicals including galloyl ester which plays an important role in inhibiting cholesterol production.Recent studies show that regular consumption of rhubarb lowers total and LDL cholesterol. Studies have identified compounds in rhubarb that reduce stickiness of blood, lowering the incidence of blood clots which may be helpful in preventing stroke. Rhubarb is also high OPCs (oligomeric proanthocyanids), antioxidants that potentiate the antioxidant power of Vitamin C by 400% and Vitamin E by 15%. Rhubarb also contains the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which help protect the eyes against cataracts and AMD (age-related macular degeneration).
The National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture conducted a study that showed blueberries prevent the onset of Alzheimer's disease and improve short-term memory, coordination and balance. The antioxidant power of blueberries comes from its high chlorogenic acid and anthocyanin content.Blueberries also have anti-inflammatory properties that help prevent and relieve arthritic symptoms.
Some researchers suggest that the "French Paradox" is due to the fact that wine is really an alcohol tincture of several potent flavonoids.Herbal tinctures are more effective than glycerine-derived or dry extracts, since the phytochemicals in the herbs are potentiated by the alcohol extraction process.
Kvöldsól is produced in a converted dairy factory that is about 1,080 square feet in total size. In Spring 2004, Kvöldsól will be available in 18 ml size bottles. A white wine is also planned for 2005-2006.
"The wine is very tasteful, has a rich berry taste with a little spice and oak at the end," says Ómar."It goes well with all kinds of cheese, fruit, berries and most dishes."
In addition to being Iceland's only winemaker, Ómar holds another world title: The Guinness world record in pancake baking. When he's not making wine and discovering new recipes for the elixir of eternal youth, Ómar plays volleyball and basketball.
The wine retails for $22 (US dollars) per bottle and can be bought at: http://www.nordicstore.net; for wholesale or distributor inquiries or for more information about Húsavík, please contact: Haraldur Lindál Pétursson, General Manager, Marketing Council of Husavik, Gardarsbraut 5, 640 Húsavík, Iceland, International code (011) + 354-464-3800, firstname.lastname@example.org