In the first part of this blog series (click here to read it) we discussed the true culprits behind red wine headaches. We took a look at the role histamine and tyramine play in making some of us feel pretty rubbish after enjoy a glass of red wine. Now we want to examine why wine has an obvious impact? And where do these amines come from?

Why does red wine?

A bottle of red wine with two glasses to be enjoyed.
What role does alcohol play?

Well, it seems the delivery system may matter. There is a school of thought that the presence of other compounds present in wine increases the impact of ingested histamine and tyramine. The most obvious culprit is, of course, alcohol. The alcohol in our glass of wine facilitates the absorption of tyramine and, possibly, histamine. In addition, aldehydes may also play a potentiating role. Thus, phenomenon of the RWH as a phenomenon is, in part, explained by the presence of these elements, as opposed to other high histamine foods.

What causes the presence of amines in wine?

View of a sloping vineyard with mountains in the background.
Region of origin may influence amine levels.

Frustratingly, it seems that just about everything can influence the presence and formation of amines in wine. The levels of each vary depending the region of origin and ripeness at harvest. Soil type may even play a role. They are also by-products of the winemaking process. Their formation is primarily dependent on the presence of precursor amino acids. In addition, the length of maceration and skin contact (both pre and post fermentation) and alcohol levels may play a part. The microbial population on the grapes can further impact the final levels. Other elements deemed to play part include fermentation temperature, nutrient additions and the pH of the wine.

Low and high histamine grape varieties

Black and white picture of a bottle of Dolcetto
Dolcetto is believed to be red grape variety that is lower in histamine.

Just as the viticulture and production methods can influence the levels of histamine in a wine, so too can the grape variety. However, it seems that some varieties naturally seem to have lower levels. Sauvignon Blanc is reported to have low levels of tyramine. In reds, Merlot and the Cabernets (Sauvignon and Franc) are regarded as having less histamine present. Dolcetto and Barbera are also thought to have low levels. And Chardonnay can be low in both tyramine and histamine.

Can I prevent a red wine headache?

Selection of aged cheeses - these are often a high histamine food.
Try limiting high histamine foods while drinking red wine.

Can we enjoy a glass of red, without suffering from a red wine headaches? Some would recommend drinking a glass of water for every glass of wine consumed. This is often a wise choice, regardless of any sensitivity. Some also promote taking anti-histamines and even supplementing with vitamin B6. Try to avoid combining red wine with high histamine/tyramine foods (often a tricky ask given some of the best food and wine matches!). Exploring the aforementioned lower histamine varieties could be worth a shot. However, you could try out the following products – the Wand and Ullo. Though the latter claims to remove sulphites, we imagine it is filtering out histamines as well. The Wand, claims to remove histamine and sulphites from wines.

Happy drinking!

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RED WINE HEADACHES PART 2
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