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Snooth User: fibo86

Wine allergies?

Posted by fibo86, Feb 17, 2009.

Does anyone know what to expect if you have allergies to red wine?
From the mildest to the most horrid?


Reply by GregAtchley, Feb 17, 2009.

I would say any adverse reaction would rate a solid "horrid". That would be right up there with not being able to eat cheese.

My wife seems to consistently get a belly ache from Merlot, and more recently, Tempranillo. Really unfortunate and I can't understand what would cause it to be specific to certain varietals.

Maybe I just need to spend more! : )

Reply by Philip James, Feb 17, 2009.

Fibo - my girlfriend, Sung (who is on the forums from time to time), seems to be allergic to some red's. I cant figure out which, and its a pretty mild reaction, so we dont worry about it, but she's allergic to strawberries, bananas and many other red fruits (plums, cherries etc). Not that any of those are in wines, but certain varietals seem to cause her throat to itch, tongue to swell, lips to get irritated etc.

I have a background in Chemistry and can't for the life of me figure out what causes it

Reply by LVMama, Feb 18, 2009.

My mother has allergic reactions to wine so she sticks with bourbon. Although I inherited allergies, I'm very glad that the wine allergy was not one of them! I believe she's allergic to sulfites.

Here's some interesting info I found on an allergy and asthma website, which may help explain why a person would react more to one wine than another, depending on the fruit and additives -


Reply by LVMama, Feb 18, 2009.

Sorry - forgot something. The worst reaction would probably be anaphylactic shock, which would require emergency treatment. I agree with E and N; any reaction would be horrid. :-)

Reply by Rodolphe Boulanger, Feb 18, 2009.

@philip - I wonder if Sung is allergic to sulfites. Can she eat dried fruits?

My mother is allergic to something in Champagne (we think it is the yeasts?). She has gone into shock a couple of times and passed out. Wanting to avoid these hospital trips in the future, she now drinks no sparkling wines. Sadly, Champagne was her favorite type of wine.

Reply by fibo86, Feb 18, 2009.

Anaphylactic shock seems to be what Sung is going through (mind you very mild) my boyfriend has this reaction to shell fish again only in a mild form (no hospital or epi pen needed).
I'm finding that red wines are giving me different reactions I'm thinking that I now am having a reaction to Histamine-my eyes swell and get watery, my nose feels like someone has taken a rolled up wet towel and smacked me straight in the face, my head feels like it's going to explode and my hands are as itchie as measels and lumpy as the moon surface, sometimes sore tummy.
Now I do get asthma sometimes but my reaction is not due to sulfites as i have no problem breathing and if someone is very sensitive to this you only need to open the bottle and this can set them off from memory I think it's as low as 5-7p/pm.
In Australia we have aprox 250-300 p/pm (sulfites: parts per million) per bottle and 30-120p/pm in organic so I'm now trying one normal and one organic day by day to see weather or not any wines give me a reaction although it's such a shame to open a bottle for a glass as no one at home drinks wine (although knowing does kinda help not to be concerned weather or not I'm going to have a reaction)
@Rb maybe your mum has the worst end of my reaction as I've being noticing lately that the sparklings have been top of the list (although mainly sparkling reds) apparently

Quote"Histamine is another ingredient that is found in alcoholic beverages. Bacteria and yeast in the alcohol generate it. Histamine is also found in aged cheese, tuna, and meat. Histamine is a naturally occurring amine released by the body during allergic reactions. The histamine content in alcohol is very small and even less is absorbed when ingested. Excessive consumption of alcohol may cause a runny nose, stuffy nose, itchy, runny eyes, or worsening of one's asthma. Red wines often have a larger amount of histamines than white wines"

So perhaps it's a product we just can't get rid of once in our system.
If you guys are up for it perhaps we could put in a list of some type? (for the sensitive types)

Reply by AubreyLJenkins, Feb 17, 2010.

I've had wine here and there but for the past month I've really been trying new wines and learning a lot about wine and its history. For the last two weeks I've been getting congested after even half a glass... But because I have never been allergic to anything it didn't dawn on me that it might be the wine... until last week when I broke out in some pretty massive hives all over. I'm not sure if it's the wine (maybe a bit of denial on my part) or if it's all the packing and unpacking I've been doing while moving and going through old boxes. I had a glass of wine last night and though I didn't break out in hives I got a bit stuffy. I'll reintroduce it slowly after my move in hopes that it's the dust and not the wine :(

Reply by zufrieden, Feb 17, 2010.

I also suspect that sulfites are at least silent partners in these suspiciously allergenic reactions. Generally, the cheaper the wine and the whiter the wine the more sulfites you can expect. I have seen these preservatives literally shoveled into vats by manual laborers in large wineries. And guess what? Where do I find the potential for allergic reaction greatest? Cheap, white wine meant to be drunk young...

There is also some talk of wine-food combinations giving some persons trouble - especially where additional (unwanted) ingredients like Mono-sodium Glutamate are present in the food. Thus, you may experience some unpleasant reaction when picnic wine meets junk food or fast food (including something from your local Chinese take-out).

Reply by napagirl68, Feb 17, 2010.

Fibo, I can talk LOTS about allergic reactions.. whoo hoo! But first, what you describe does sound like an allergic reaction (immune mediated)- not just a food sensitivity (like msg). The problem is identifying that pesky protein that your white cells are going nuts over.

I have had one true allergic reaction to a wine. It was a red wine from Napa. We had tasted it at the winery and bought a couple of bottles. A few months later, I popped the bottle open and had a glass. The first thing I noticed was my taste buds began to become "off". The wine began to taste briney. I attribute this to the fact that my sinuses had begun to swell shut. I got very hoarse (like laryngitis) and knew this was anaphylaxis. Also, hives on my arms. I immediate took Benadryl and began to cry because I thought I was gonna be allergic to my favorite thing!

I did a TON of internet research about this... I mean, coming out of the blue and all. Turns out, you can be allergic to a certain winery's wine, or a certain vineyard for whatever reason. This winery in question is fully sustainable, and while looking things up about the vineyard, found that they used crushed oyster/clam shells to nourish the soil. Now I have no idea if this has anything to do with it, but I am allergic to shellfish. Who knows?

The next evening, I drank a chardonnay that I had many times in the past. My nose proceeded to swell again, but not as bad. More benedryl. Being a person who has suffered from seasonal allergies to grasses, gotten shots, gotten horrible reactions from shots, I am pretty well versed in the allergic dynamic. (I am now on the sublingual drops for my pollen allergies.) I knew I had to stop the wine for awhile, and let my immune system calm down. This was also during my pollen season, which is when it is common to have foods or other items cause reactions that they do not at other times of the year.

I went a few weeks with no wine at all, then had a white I was used to having. No problem. I "baby stepped it" after that, drinking maybe only 1/2 glass to see how things went. All seemed to go ok, and I have not had a similar problem since (this was ~3yrs ago). However, I avoid that particular winery's wines like the plague! Too bad, it is good wine!

BTW- found out from my allergist a few things: Firstly, white wines have more sulfites than reds. Some people are sensitive to sulfites, and they will also have trouble with other things, like salad bar items (tomatoes) or tomatoes on restaurant sandwiches (some places use sulfites to keep veggies looking fresh longer). Other things too... just can't remember. Secondly, red wines are higher in histamines. Give ANYONE enough histamine, and they will exhibit an allergic like reaction. So if a wine happens to have a higher histamine level, you can experience allergic symptoms. Similarly, if you are already having allergy issues, and take in something with histamine, you can "tip the scales" to a full blown allergic reaction. Thirdly, once you have an allergic reaction to something, you can be in "strirred up" mode for several weeks. I once took a medication and got hives all over. This continued for 2 months, after I took ANY med.. even advil. They finally gave me a cortisone shot and it went away. I just avoid that medication, but I can still take all the others....

I hate being allergic!

Reply by VegasOenophile, Feb 18, 2010.

Wow. Interesting info indeed. I'd be so depressed if I was allergic to wine or chocolate. They keep me going haha. I do know that wine attributes to my hay fever cough, but I wager to guess it's the dryness more than anything.

Reply by whfk, Feb 18, 2010.

I'm not getting allergies, but if I have more than a glass of red of an evening I'll be sure to wake up at 3.00am for at least three hours. Its driving me crazy. Does anyone know how to avoid this? (besides the unmentionable)

Reply by napagirl68, Feb 18, 2010.

@whfk... this is a common phenomenon, unfortunately. The unmentionable is the only way to avoid it. Some are more sensitive than others... I can have 2-3 glasses and be ok. But if I am with friends, lots of bottles opened, I am BOOM, wide awake at 3:30am.. and have to get up at 6 for work, so I am screwed. The only way to avoid it is to have the wine earlier in the day or evening. I think it has to do with the interruption of REM sleep..

Reply by VegasOenophile, Feb 18, 2010.

whfk and others, I do find that balancing every glass or two of wine with a glass of water helps with a lot of issues people tend to get, me included, but after many more than 2 or 3 glasses. Balance it out with water and make sure there's something in your belly. Perhaps some cranberry juice before bed would help your kidneys out. Water water water. maybe also an antacid before bed.

Reply by slyds0390, May 25, 2011.

I've never had a reaction to red wine before. In fact, I used to drink it all the time. My cousin went to Spain, and brought me back a bottle of Tempranillo wine from Rioja. My face swelled up and my face broke out in tiny bumps all over. I took a benadryl, and the swelling went down, but the bumps stayed. The next day, the bumps began to itch. 


I was wondering if the type of grape could have caused the reaction. Has anyone else had an experience with the Tempranillo grape?

Reply by SPisc, May 27, 2011.

At times I get quite stuffy from certain wines and a friend suggested it was an allergy.

Reply by Richard Foxall, May 27, 2011.

Philip:  That's basic anaphylaxis Sung is having.  Problem is, continued exposure could cause more severe reactions, and it could be unpredictable.  She's having a mild version but the severe does the same things--itching lips, hives and swelling of throat--to the point where you can't breathe.  I've had medium anaphylaxis and that's bad enough.  I got treated for my main problem (yellowjacket stings) and still carry an epipen.  she should get one (any doc can prescribe) and carry it when she's going to be eating any of those things.  She should also get tested--not always possible to determine the problem, but the tests are less invasive than they used to be (fewer pricks of the skin and, in my case, where they know my existing sensitivity, a tiny blood draw and no pricking of skin).

As for wine allergies, NG has gotten it all right as far as I can see.  (She's an actual scientist for anyone who doesn't know, with more than a "background" in chem--she's got serious credentials.) I think you should do as she did, working your way back in.  Reds have more tendency to cause sensitivity, but it ain't sulfites that do it if it's reds--she's totally right about that.  And it can even be a one time contamination (brettanomyces, anyone?  Think wine never gets contaminated?) or there can be processes that a particular wine or winery employs. There's another possibility or four, like something that was in the wine glass that didn't get washed out properly, or something you were eating earlier, or even interaction with a medication.

Good thing NG didn't have to give up wine--she wouldn't have anything to post here, and we wouldn't have the benefit of her scientific knowledge.

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