Do you suffer from the ‘red wine headache syndrome’ and sometimes query whether this is because of over indulgence or whether you have a genuine reaction to a red wine varietal? We get asked a lot about allergies and wine. So what is the answer? Is your allergic reaction just an illusion?

It would seem that it would be quite rare for an individual to have a histamine reaction to wine. The levels of histamine in wine itself is quite low across all varietals; to the best of our knowledge histamine levels don’t change between Cabernet Sauvignon to Shiraz with no variance year to year. It is more likely your reaction is happening because of something you are eating in combination with the wine.

When ingested as a component of food or beverage, histamine is readily broken down by the body and a significantly reduced concentration is available to circulate in the blood stream. An adverse reaction generally occurs only when a large amount exceeding the normal dietary intake of histamine is ingested, for example, greater than 25 to 250 mg, in individuals sensitive to an increased concentration of histamine in the blood stream.

The adverse reactions to histamine appear to be dose-dependent. While these amounts are far in excess of those observed in wine, individuals ‘sensitive’ to histamine can exhibit a reaction from ingestion of wine containing a significantly lower concentration of histamine, due to the combination of the wine with histamine-containing foods and beverages also consumed during the day, such as aged cheese, fish such as mackerel and tuna, meat, yeast extract and products, vegetables such as eggplant, spinach and tomatoes – indeed, foods that have been exposed to microorganisms during ripening, processing or storage are observed to have a significant concentration of histamine and the other biogenic amines.

The amount of histamine in wine is generally ten-fold less than that measured in other foods and beverages. 

So we are afraid, more likely than not, your red wine headache is not an allergic reaction to the wine but to something else.

Please drink responsibly!



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