Allergic to red wine? Maybe yes… maybe no….Ask The Wine Ladies November 2009

Dear Wine Ladies,

Could you please tell me what ingredients or process of wine making some one could have allergies to? I am not allergic to tannins or alcohol, and have been unsuccessful in finding an answer to why I am allergic to wine. Could certain grapes specifically or certain regions be the problem? Thank you in advance.


Port Credit, Mississauga


Dear George,

Great question indeed. Many people declare that they are allergic to wine, wines of a specific region or even a specific grape experiencing headaches, wheezing and/or stuffiness. In actuality, being allergic to one grape variety in particular is impossible, or even all wines from a specific region. Factors, which might increase one’s chances of experiencing symptoms of allergies, have to do with the treatment in the vineyard and at the winery.

We consulted with winemaker Gilbert Provost, from the winery in Prince Edward County, REDTAIL VINEYARD, for his take on this question. Gilbert went on to explain, “Firstly no process by itself could generate an allergic reaction. Rather, the reaction would be caused by a substance or combination of substances. There is a long list of additives permitted in wine making by the Canadian Food and Drug Act, some completely harmless no matter the quantity, and others harmless in controlled quantities. Sulfurous dioxide is one of the additives whose quantity is regulated and can cause allergic reactions for persons with a sensitivity, one in 20,000.” Interestingly, it appears that the majority of people who think they are allergic to wine actually have a pre-existing allergy, or sensitivity to a variety of substances or ingredients such as yeasts, corn, eggs (often used to filter wine to remove impurities) grapes, pesticides, sulfites of course and histamines (naturally found in red wine).

Mr. Provost furthered explained that in his experience most people complaining of headaches after drinking wine, particularly red wine, are experiencing the effect of alcohol as opposed to an allergic reaction. One word of advice, if we may, avoid drinking on an empty stomach and try to drink two full glasses of water to each glass of wine, definitely most helpful in feeling energetic in the morning.

The Wine Ladies,

Georgia and Susanne

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