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Histamine is a naturally occurring compound found in various foods, including wine. Foods rich in histamine might cause headaches or other symptoms in some individuals. As a result, a growing number of wineries now produce low or histamine-free wines. In this article, we will look at what histamine is, why it is found in wine, and how you, as a wine consumer, can reduce your exposure to this substance.
What is histamine?
Histamine describes a group of molecules derived from the amino acid histidine. Aged foods including cheese, caviar and sauerkraut, as well as wine, beer and chocolate, all contain this agent.
Histamine is a common cause of food-related reactions. In some people, this compound can bring forth headaches, flush, sneezing, skin itch, and other side effects.
Why is histamine in wine?
As previously mentioned, wines produced from grapes (and a few other fruits) contain naturally occurring amines. One of the most common amines in wine, histamine, is produced by fermentation and can also be present in wines made from fruit that has ripened on the vine.
The amount of histamine found in wine depends on several factors, including grape variety and winery practices. The amount of histamine in white wine tends to be lower than in red wines. In general, white wines made from grapes typical to ripen late in the season contain less histamine than those made from early-ripening varieties.
Some wineries also add yeast to accelerate fermentation to produce more alcohol and less acidity. This practice can lead to the release of more histamine into the wine. Another factor that can cause histamine release into wine is ageing in oak barrels.
An alternative in natural wines
Some wineries have started to produce low or histamine-free wines using gentle winemaking techniques. These methods are designed to leave the histamine contained in the grape in the wine without using harsh, modern methods of wine production. Several natural winemakers are now experimenting with ways to reduce the amount of histamine in wine.
Natural winemakers use traditional winemaking methods to make their wines. While these winemakers are very different, they all have one thing in common: they make their wines with little intervention. Their wines are not manipulated with additives, yeast and enzymes, excessive sulfur dioxide, or high alcohol concentrations.
Some of the most traditional natural wines are made with grapes that are "raisined" on the vine and use overripe grapes that other winemakers might discard as a way to produce lower alcohol wines. The process of raisinage is used to make the highest quality Muscat-style dessert wine and some of the best Sauternes.
Before using SO2 and other additives to prevent the growth of unwanted microorganisms, the amount of histamine in wine was generally higher than it is today. Today, the amount of histamine in wine varies between 1 and 75 mg of histamine per litre. Since some individuals can be sensitive to histamine, a growing number of wineries are now producing low or histamine-free wines.
As you can see, your choice of wine is not just limited to the grapes used to make the wine and the winemaking techniques used. Histamine content is also an important consideration when choosing the right wine.
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