Polyphenolic compounds present in red wines, such as the flavonol quercetin, are thought capable of cardioprotection through mechanisms not yet clearly defined. It has been established that mitochondria play a critical role in myocardial recovery from ischemia-reperfusion (I-R) damage, and in vitro experiments indicate that quercetin can exert a variety of direct effects on mitochondrial function. The effects of quercetin at concentrations typically found in 1-2 glasses of red wine on cardiac I-R and mitochondrial function in vivo are not known. Quercetin was administered to rats (0.033 mg/kg per day by gavage for 4 d). Isolated Langendorff perfused hearts were subjected to I-R, and cardiac functional parameters determined both before and after I-R. Mitochondria were isolated from post - I-R hearts and their function assessed. Compared to an untreated control group, quercetin treatment significantly decreased the impairment of cardiac function following I-R. This protective effect was associated with improved mitochondrial function after I-R. These results indicate that oral low dose quercetin is cardioprotective, possibly via a mechanism involving protection of mitochondrial function during I-R. © 2002 Elsevier Science Inc.