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By Michael "Ty" Taiani

Your body's physiological responses after consuming wine (almost in every case, a red wine) could actually be an allergic reaction to either of two other culprits - tannin or histamine. Okay, definition time: In a grape skin (literally), tannins are compounds found in the skins, seeds, and vine stems and are released into the juice (known as must) during the pressing and fermentation processes. Red wines contain many times more tannin than whites primarily due to the manner in which they're made, receiving color from saturating the skins with the must. The latter, histamines, are sensitive, reactive chemicals which exist both internally and externally of the body. A mosquito bite, poison ivy and pollen are a few examples which affect internal histamines, and thus we use anti-histamine products to tame the discomforts. Wine, on the other hand, already contains a few milligrams per liter of histamine chemicals, ready to react with those certain individuals who are allergic to them.

Now with all this said, how do you know which one is responsible? Try these simple at-home tests. First, if indeed it is the sulfites (a natural preservative, sulfur dioxide [SO2], used in wine production oh, say since the ancient Greeks), eating 1/2 cup of dried apricots or golden raisins will surely prove/disprove that it's the sulfites, since these two foods contain the highest amounts of SO2 known to mankind! No reaction? The next test involves eating a cup of fresh strawberries. A reaction here would indeed pull histamine from the line-up since strawberries contain similar histamine chemicals as red wine. Still no reaction? Well then finally try drinking 2 small (8 oz) glasses of Concord grape juice within 1 hour. A reaction would link tannin as the source.

And once you've hopefully discovered the trigger source, steer around it. Is it sulfites? Then drink dry red and whites, and/or wines labeled "sulfite-free" which contain very low amounts of SO2. Is it tannin or histamine? Then I suggest sticking solely to white wines. But if you love your reds enough to endure the after-effects, then who am I to encourage otherwise. Simply remember to have a glass of water and your choice of analgesic next to your bed for the morning.

Michael Taiani Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW), aka Ty the Wine Guy, is a food and wine consultant and marketer. Assisting people with food and wine is his passion.

Hudson Valley Wine magazine Summer 2014 issue

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