Looking for clean wines? Let’s take a look at some of the anxieties associated with wine fortification and sulphites and find out what really gives you a headache.
Are pure wines really pure?
Many wines claim to be pure, but is it true? Are natural wines also clean?
As we will soon see, there is very little transparency in this matter and the truth is in unknown territory.
Feelings of discomfort after drinking wine
Too much alcohol causes fatigue, headaches, nausea and stomach complaints. However, some drinkers complain about these symptoms after just one or two glasses of wine.
What’s causing this?
Are they sulphites? Did you add sugar? Sensitivity to alcohol? Or any other wine additive?
They are most likely not sulphites, added sugar or wine additives.
It is not the feeling you get from wine that comes from a group of compounds called biogenic amines.
What are biogenic amines?
Biogenic amines are organic nitrogen compounds formed naturally during wine production. These include compounds such as histamine, tyramine, rot and cadaver.
Safe levels of biogenic amines have yet to be determined for a number of fermented foods.
Biogenic amines are present in many foods, including processed fish, meat, cheese and fermented products (such as beer, wine and kimchi).
High concentrations of biogenic amines (especially histamine and thyramine) cause hot flashes, headaches, nausea and fatigue.
An extreme example
In one case, six people aged 22 to 27 who had drunk about 3 glasses of wine at a party went to the emergency room with symptoms resembling alcohol poisoning. The wine contained only 10.5% alcohol by volume (which is low), so there was no point in these people being so sick.
After several microbiological tests, scientists discovered that the wine contained a significant amount of biogenic amines.
Which wines contain biogenic amines?
Unfortunately, there are no strict rules to avoid wines with biogenic amines, as very little data is available. (For more information, see below).
What to do if you are sensitive to biogenic amines?
Some of us are sensitive to biogenic amines (including myself, the author). After a few sips of wine we feel hot flashes or headaches. Here are some practical tips on how to deal with this situation:
- Always drink a glass of water before a glass of wine. This eliminates the possibility of you becoming dehydrated.
- If you want to drink more than one glass of wine, prefer white wine, rosé and sparkling wine to red wine. (more information below).
- Despite our concerns about sulphites, wines that contain sulphites stop the formation of biogenic amines by controlling microbial growth.
- When sniffing, it is useful to note that wines with an excessively rotten odor often contain high biogenic amines. (keyword: excessive)
- Wines with high acidity (wines with a low pH of less than 3.3) are naturally resistant to the formation of biogenic amines.
- Try to limit the consumption of foods high in amino acids (ripened cheese, smoked meat, processed fish) when drinking wine.
- Some people recommend taking antihistamines before drinking wine. We advise you to consult your doctor before taking this step.
How come nobody talks about biogenic amines?
Biogenic amines have long been on the radar of science. Histamine was first identified in the early 1900s as a mediator of allergic reactions.
A wine study conducted by the American Journal of Oenology and Viticulture in 1983 examined wines for their amine content and found that red wines contained more histamine than white wines.
After further research, we learned that a winemaking process called milk and apple fermentation (used in almost all red wines and Chardonnay oil) increases the histamine content of the wine.
Why are there no rules in this respect?
In the European Union the regulation of biogenic amines has been discussed, but no legal restrictions have been imposed.
One of the reasons for this situation is the clear lack of information on wine available to researchers to find out more.
Of course, some wineries take biogenic amines very seriously and carry out their own research and winemaking practices to produce products that are both tasty and safe. However, the wineries are not obliged to share this information with the public.
So far, pure wines = marketing gun
Maybe it’s wise to be skeptical about wines sold as pure, unless the brands share their fixed numbers.
Moreover, the fact that wine is natural does not mean that there are fewer biogenic amines. In fact, in some scenarios native fermentation may increase the similarity of compounds such as histamine and tyramine.
So the next time you read a bold statement about the quality of wine, don’t forget that wine is stupid! Welcome to the party.
Should consumers have access to this information? Leave a comment below!