Wine Society

The University of Bath Student's Wine Society

Wine Allergies

Unfortunately for some, drinking wine, particularly red wine, can result in either an alergic reaction, or a very nasty headache after less than a glass. Here we have summed up some of the possible allergies, but given wine's chemical complexity and the many different ways wine is made, there are hundreds of potential causes. Finding what substance in wine causes an allergy can be a case of trial and error for the sufferer, since not all wines will affect them. However, if you are alergic to wine, we do reccomend that you seek an opinion from your doctor.



Sulphites are forms of sulphurous acid, including sulphur dioxide. They make a good antibacterial agent, and are a key preservative for wine. Sweeter wines tend to have more sulphites to help to preserve their sugar content.

Alergies to sulphur are a recognised condition, as such wine labels will state if they contain sulphites. While there are wines that claim to be sulfite free, this is not enirely possible as sulfites exist natrually in the grape skin. However "sulphite free" does mean that no additional sulphur was added.

It is estimated that approximately one in a hundred people have a sensitivity to sulphites. Common symptoms are mild and could involve flushing, redness, rashes, or swelling. However sulphites are found in many other things including fruit juices and dried fruits. Dried fruits have a higher concentration of sulphites than wine, so if these don't affect you, it is likely to be something else in the wine causing your allergy.



Histamines occur naturally in fermented products and some people react to high levels of histamines. Their reactions resemble allergic reactions to food, and the cause of this is due to their bodies not producing a particular enzyme. A possible solution to this is to drink a cup of black tea before drinking wine.

Red Wine Headache (RWH)


Is usually nasty headache after less than a glass of red wine, other symptoms that might occour are nausea and flushing. This can develop within 15 minutes of drinking red wine, and does not necessarily happen with all red wines. Unfortunately little reaserch has been done into this issue, and given the chemical complexity of wine there are lots of potential causes!



Tannins are particularly prevalant in red wine, however are also present in chocolate and tea. While tannins are sometimes to blamed for headaches like the red wine headache, tannins usually affect people who also suffer from migraine headaches. Wines that are low in tannin include French Burgundy, Spanish Rioja, and most Pinot Noirs.

Return to the Wine Guide Contents
Wine Allergies | Calories in Wine | Lead and Wine Concerns | Health Benefits of Wine


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