There’s hope for those who enjoy red wine, but get headaches from it. Two low-histamine wines are now available from the Piedmont, Italy-based Veglio Michelino e Figlio, which claims these bottles can reduce some people’s alcohol allergies.
“Some people who try the wine are in tears, because they haven’t been able to drink red wine in years,” says Sergio Srgo, the wine’s importer.
Red wines average about 10mg of histamines per liter, while the new Veglio Michelino e Figlio wines — Barbera d’Alba and a Dolcetto d’Alba — only contain .5 mg per liter because grapes that naturally have lower histamine levels are used and the company ages the juice in stainless steel tanks instead of wood, Sgro says.
This tiny change in histamine level can make all the difference, Srgo explains, because some people lack enough of the enzyme diamine oxidase in their stomach, which helps break down histamines. This can lead to a toxic buildup of histamines in some, which causes an allergic reaction and pesky headaches.
There isn’t, however, a medical consensus to back up the winemaker’s theory. Dr. Robert Sporter of ENT & Allergy Associates in Midtown says many patients suffer from red wine headaches, but it’s unclear if the condition is caused by histamines or by wine’s sulfites and tannins.
“Lots of other foods have histamines, like aged cheeses, smoked meats, pickled foods and canned foods, and you don’t see as many people having headaches from those types of foods,” Sporter says. He adds he would advise his patients to give low histamines a shot and see if they notice a difference — but that there isn’t any clear evidence to indicate they will. And it may be the alcohol itself in wine that’s causing a reaction. Tom Geniesse, the owner of Bottlerocket Wine & Spirit, which has a Flatiron location, says many wine drinkers complain of headaches — but the culprit is actually the amount consumed.
“I applaud the effort, but I don’t know if it’s the answer,” Geniesse says. “But if they can help some decent percentage of people who have trouble drinking wine enjoy it without suffering, [other winemakers] will probably follow suit.”
The Daily News Taste Kitchen downed some of the Veglio Michelino e Figlio low-histamine wines, but found them light and watery — a possible result of aging in steel tanks instead of wood. “They also washed away the flavor,” said one tester. “Actual taste is worth the risk of a headache.” Neither varietals taste like expensive wines — and they aren’t. Both retail for about $15 at shops like Three Sun Liquor in Forest Hills.
“They both have bodies thinner than a supermodel during the heroin chic era,” another taster noted. “That said, if this red wine truly relieves headaches, I wouldn’t kick it out of a sick bed.”
By Gina Pace - The NY Daily News/April 12, 2015