Low Histamine Wine: What’s the Best Wine for Histamine Intolerance?

Low Histamine Wines
Choose low-histamine wines so you can enjoy a glass without the symptoms
Low Histamine Wines

Looking for a delicious low histamine wine to kick back and relax without any histamine intolerance symptoms?

I've got you covered.

Let's face it, we all like to indulge in a few-too-many rich, decadent delights.

You know the kind - you arrive at a dinner party and, before you, lies a table with all kinds of to-die-for treats spread out in front of you - exotic wines, cheeses, all kinds of meat, fresh vegetables and fruits.

Can you picture it? Of course you can.

Now, for a pop quiz - which of these are high histamine foods? The quickest way to spot the right answer is to pick out the oldies  – anything aged or fermented will have its proteins broken down and naturally contain a high concentration of histamines.

Wines are a major culprit - most wines contain varying amounts of histamine and can cause adverse effects in histamine-intolerant individuals.

And there lies the question - how can you enjoy a glass of wine without aggravating histamine intolerance symptoms? The key: find a low histamine wine to tickle your taste buds. 

Many people initially figure out they have histamine intolerance after sampling a glass of wine. The symptoms are similar to those that come from allergic rhinitis - sneezing, itchiness, nasal congestion and headaches.

But, the symptoms can vary and be body-wide and these reactions may only cover the tip of the iceberg.

So, if you want to savour a glass of low histamine wine after a long, hard day without breaking into a bout of unwanted histamine symptoms, how do you go about finding reliable, low histamine wines you can trust?

Believe me - I know the struggle, I went through it. And, that's exactly why I've created this low histamine wine list to make your life (and alcohol habits) way easier. 

Low histamine wine: red or white

The science is out - if you're aiming for a low histamine wine, skip the reds.

The less “red” your wine, the better. Sparkling, white and rosé wines all are low histamine wines when compared to reds. And, it’s not even a small difference. Red wine can have as much as 20–200% more histamine than white wine (refer to the table below)!

These high histamine levels are incredibly important, as researchers claim that as many as 75% of those who experience symptoms following wine consumption are reacting specifically to the histamines present in wine, and this has been corroborated by several studies.

One study, known as the Red Wine Provocation Test, examined 28 subjects ranging between 19 and 63 years with a history of wine intolerance and observed that 22 of the 28 patients had significantly higher plasma histamine levels 30 minutes after drinking 125ml red wine (which contains the equivalent of 50 micrograms of histamine). This study concluded a distinct correlation between reactions to wine and histamine intolerance [1].

The team of scientists behind the Red Wine Provocation Test also assessed histamine levels in 52 wines and 17 beers. They found that red wine had a significantly higher percentage of histamine when compared to white wines, champagnes and beers. 

Histamine levels in different kinds of alcoholic beverages* 
Alcoholic drink
Histamine levels (micrograms/l)

Red wines

60-3800

White wines

3-120

Champagnes

15-670

Beers

21-305

Source: [1]

As you can see from the table above, when it comes to finding a low histamine wine, white wines are going to be a much safer bet than grabbing a bottle of red!

However, there is some overlap and simply choosing white won’t guarantee that you can leave the evening symptom-free. So, let me get deeper into things so I can explain exactly which types of low histamine wine and brands are going to be best…

Glass of low histamine white wine

Before I continue, it’s important to note that people can experience adverse reactions to wines due to other reasons as well, not just histamine intolerance - notably from the sulfite preservatives added to wines.

So, in order to ensure the reactions in the Red Wine Provocation Test were due to histamine, scientists administered terfenadine (a commonly used antihistamine at the time) to the subjects prior to consuming wine. When consumed, terfenadine significantly eliminated symptoms in ten out of twelve patients [1].

It’s notable, however, that the pharmaceutical drug terfenadine has since been withdrawn from the U.S. market and, as a scientist devoted to natural health solutions, I personally opt for using an all-natural anti-histamine called Natural D-Hist.

In another double-blind, placebo controlled study, histamine in wine appeared to induce constriction of airways in the lungs of subjects, leading to coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.  When the subjects were made to drink high histamine wine (up to 3,700 micrograms/l), they experienced wheezing and a decrease in lung function [2].

Additionally, levels of histamine within the blood increased after 10 and 20 minute intervals and appeared begin reducing after half an hour. This was the case for both high and low histamine wines [2].

Wine and headaches

Many people experience headaches after drinking alcohol. However, if you have chronic headaches, the one that comes the morning after enjoying a glass or two of wine might be a little more rough than the rest of us.

You are not alone in this. Several tests have shown that headaches can be induced by ingestion of wine. Sticking to a low histamine diet can prove a life-saver in helping those who have been suffering from chronic headaches [3] - and, sticking to drinking low histamine wine can actually reduce hangover symptoms.

Where Does the Histamine in Wine Come From?

Before we go into why fermented consumables, such as wine, contain high amounts of histamines, let us understand where amines come from.

***WARNING: Nerdy Science Talk Ahead***

Amines are a class of compounds derived from amino acids. When long chains of amino acids bind together, they form proteins. This means that any form of food in which protein degradation takes place invariably contains amines. This includes all kinds of alcoholic beverages, fermented vegetables and matured cheese.

So, what are the main amines found in foods? Histamine, tryptamine, putrescine, tyramine, isoamylamine, phenylethylamine, cadaverine, and spermidine, to name a few of the prominent ones.

Now that we know the correlation between wines and histamine intolerance, the question is, what are the best low histamine wines to drink if you’re histamine intolerant?

White wines are an obvious answer - but, what if you fancy a bit of red and don't want to break into a bout of itching and sneezing?

Glass of low histamine red wine

In a 2011 study published by the Floridsdorf Allergy Centre, Austria, one hundred selected high-quality red wines made from seven different cultivars were tested for amine levels. Most of the wines had similar amine levels except for Pinot noir and St. Laurent wines, which had markedly higher tryptamine and cadaverine levels [4].

Additionally, as much as 34 % of the wines tested had more than 10 mg/l of histamine levels, a threshold level once adopted in several countries across the world. Scientists found that histamine levels varied considerably between red wines independent of grape variety and even high-rated wines had high amounts of histamines [4].

For example, when wines from 2004 and 2005 were compared, it was found that levels of histamine, putrescine and tyramine were higher in 2004 (a vintage with very good red wines) than in 2005 (a year delivering average red wine) [4].

Can manufacturing process play a role

Malolactic fermentation - heard of it before? It's how all wine is made -  malolactic fermentation is the conversion of the tart-tasting malic acid, found in grapes, to the milder tasting lactic acid by bacteria. Malolactic fermentation is what gives wine its mellow, rounded taste.

Advances in production technology may hold hope for all those red wine lovers who fear to pick up a glass due to the unhealthy after-effects from histamine intolerance, as scientists are now researching the use of alternate bacterial strains during the fermentation process to help lower amounts of histamines in wines and thus produce low histamine wine options.

It was earlier believed that high histamine levels were due to unhygienic manufacturing processes, though studies have shown that even high-quality wines contain large amounts of histamine. However, various studies have shown that a careful selection of strains used in the fermentation process can reduce the amount of biogenic amines in the final byproduct [5].

In a 2017 study published in The International Journal of Food Microbiology,  a non-commercial strain of lactic acid bacteria, autochthonous O. oeni, was used as a starter for wine. The starter was introduced to inoculate 20,000 L of Tempranillo red wine. The results were encouraging, as the wine made from this strain had five-fold less histamine than the control sample. A year later, after barrel ageing had taken place, histamine concentrations were still three-fold lower than in the control sample [6].

These results provide a breakthrough for producing low histamine wine.

Grapes for low histamine wine
Healthy tract? Don't overthink that glass

So far, we have discussed the effect of red wine on histamine-intolerant individuals. What if you have no history of symptoms and would like to enjoy your wine?

Science indicates your gut is efficient enough to digest any amount of histamine that comes your way in wine. In one particular study, subjects were given either a histamine-rich or histamine-free wine. Blood and urine samples were taken and there was no intolerance symptoms or significantly elevated histamine levels in blood or urine. These results demonstrate that in a healthy individual, the histamine is degraded and absorbed appropriately [7

Final Verdict

The verdict is still not out regarding the exact role of wine in histamine intolerance, and a team of scientists still hold the view that the connection cannot be conclusively proven. A 2001 study showed that similar adverse reactions were found in the case of histamine-rich and histamine-poor wines, and therefore the role of a histamine inducing substance such as acetaldehyde could not be ruled out [8

Low Histamine Wines: A Comprehensive List*

We understand it's not quite easy to take along a long list of wines you can choose from when going grocery shopping (or wine tasting, for that matter). However, if you are histamine intolerant wine-lover, knowing all of the in-and-outs of high and low histamine wines is critical in reducing symptomatic consequences.

For this reason, I’ve done all of the work and research for you and put together the internet’s most comprehensive list of low histamine wine.

So, next time you’re getting a little loopy without the itchy skin and shortness of breath, think of me, my friends.

Certified Low Histamine Wines 

The following wines have been tested and certified to have less than 0.5 mg/l of histamines. And, to make things even better, they come capped with an orange lid, making them easy to identify on the countertop.

If you would still like to try a non-certified wine, below is a list of the levels of histamine in different types of wine and other alcoholic beverages.

Histamine in White Wine

Maximum 120 μg/l
Average 37 μg/l
Minimum 3μg/l

Histamine in Red Wine

Maximum 3800 μg/l
Average 1010 μg/l
Minimum 60 μg/l
Bordeaux France 2200  μg/l
Chianti Italy 1930 μg/l

Histamine in Champagne

Pommery France 670 μg/l

Histamine in Dessert Wine

Maximum 400 μg/l
Average 280 μg/l
Minimum 80 μg/l

Histamine in Sparkling Wine

Maximum 78 μg/l
Average 46 μg/l
Minimum 15 μg/l

Histamine in Rose Wine

Maximum 61 μg/l
Average 40 μg/l
Minimum 15 μg/l

And, for those of you beer lovers...

Histamine in Wheat Beer

Maximum  305 μg/l
Average 211 μg/l
Minimum 117  μg/l

Histamine in Beer

Maximum 52 μg/l
Average 32 μg/l
Minimum 21μg/l
Budweiser USA 28 μg/l

Histamine in Alcohol-free Beer

Maximum 38 μg/l
Average 26 μg/l
Minimum 15 μg/l

* Source: [1]

References

  1. Wantke F, e. (1994). The red wine provocation test: intolerance to histamine as a model for food intolerance. 
  2. Wantke F, e. (1996). Histamine in wine. Bronchoconstriction after a double-blind placebo-controlled red wine provocation test. 
  3. F, J. (1996). Wine and headache. - PubMed - NCBI. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8645981
  4. Konakovsky V, e. (2011). Levels of histamine and other biogenic amines in high-quality red wines. - PubMed - NCBI. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. 
  5. Smit, A. (2008). [online] Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/50926144_Biogenic_Amines_in_Wine_Understanding_the_Headache
  6. Berbegal C, e. (2017). Lowering histamine formation in a red Ribera del Duero wine (Spain) by using an indigenous O. oeni strain as a malolactic starter. - PubMed - NCBI. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28061327
  7. Kanny G, e. (1999). Histamine content does not influence the tolerance of wine in normal subjects. - PubMed - NCBI. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10219426
  8. Kanny G, e. (2001). No correlation between wine intolerance and histamine content of wine. - PubMed - NCBI. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11174207


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