Are you allergic to wine? The signs you should know

By Mariam Digges

Are you allergic to wine? The signs you should know
Is just one glass of wine enough to throw your body into chaos? You may be allergic to your favourite tipple without knowing it.

Ever wondered if you were allergic to wine when you’re still reeling from the effects of two glasses of wine last night, while your partner or friends have woken up fresh as a daisy?

You might be living with an unknown intolerance or allergy to your favourite glass of red or white.

While drinking wine in moderation has been known to pose many health benefits, stemming mainly from its antioxidant content – which helps to protect against cell damage – it also contains a range of ingredients that may not agree with you.

Although wine allergies are rare, intolerance-like symptoms such as rashes, nausea, headaches and diarrhoea (experienced without drinking in excess) are some of the signs that you may be intolerant to wine.

An allergy-like symptom is caused when our immune system overreacts to certain allergens, and allergies can range from mild to life-threatening.

The most common short-term symptoms of a wine intolerance are red or flushed skin, rashes, stomach cramps, a runny or blocked nose, swollen eyes, vomiting, shortness of breath or diarrhoea.

Long-term symptoms include headaches, migraines, eczema, chronic fatigue and mood disorders.

What causes these reactions to wine?


The main reason our immune system reacts to wine has to do with certain ingredients or chemicals in the wine.

The most common reaction is due to sulfates, which are created naturally in the winemaking process or added later as a preservative.

In the US, the FDA estimates that one out of 100 people are sensitive to sulfates, which are not only found in beer and wine but in a wide variety of foods such as dried fruits.


Caused by bacteria and yeast in alcohol, histamines are particular higher in content in red wine and can cause a reaction in some people.

Often, the same reaction is caused by chocolate or tea, which are also high in histamines.

Wheat and gluten

A common ingredient in malted barley, which is used to make beer, gluten and wheat can also be present in some vodka, gin, bourbon and whiskey brands.

Generally (but not always), wine, sake and cider and free from gluten, but if in doubt, opt for an organic or gluten-free wine brand.

Grape or glycoproteins allergies

A protein found in fruits such as grapes, bananas and kiwi fruit, glycoproteins can also occur in the wine fermentation process. When consumed, they can cause allergy-like symptoms.

Other allergies

Far less common but not entirely unheard of, allergies to certain bacteria, substances in the cork and even alcohol itself can also be present.

If you persistently experience any of the above symptoms, consult a doctor, and be prepared for them to prescribe abstinence from drinking as the treatment.


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