This paper reviews epidemiological investigations which have identified an inverse relationship between alcohol consumption and death from coronary heart disease: evidence from studies of mixed populations as well as of single-sex populations have, on the whole, demonstrated that this relationship is independent of sex or age. This 'cardioprotective effect' of alcohol can be explained, at least in part, by ethanol-related increases in high density lipoprotein cholesterol and reduced platelet coagulability. With certain beverages, especially red wine, phenolic compounds may provide additional protection by altering eicosanoid metabolism in favour of increased prostacyclin and decreased thromboxane synthesis, as well as antioxidant functions which prevent the peroxidation of low-density lipoprotein. Trans-resveratrol, a tri-hydroxy stilbene present in the skins of specific grape cultivars, is a constituent of certain red wines which may play a crucial role in modulating lipoprotein metabolism, eicosanoid synthesis, oxidation and coagulation. Preliminary studies using the human hepatoma cell line HepG2 are described, demonstrating that this compound has no effect upon cell viability or overall protein synthesis in these cells, and at high concentrations DNA synthesis as measured by radioactive thymidine incorporation is enhanced. Reduced intracellular concentration and secretion of apolipoprotein B have been shown to occur in response to resveratrol although a clear dose-dependency has not yet been demonstrated. The mechanisms underlying these changes as well as the effects upon the synthesis and secretion of other apolipoproteins are under active investigation in our laboratory.