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Test Your Reactions – What Allergens Are In Wine?

Allergies are a right, royal pain in the backside. I have an absolute doozy, being allergic to penicillin. I remember my mum making me practice with an EpiPen on oranges as a kid to make sure I’d know what to do if I had to. Pretty startling stuff as a 7-year-old I can tell you. Long and short of it is it’s something you want to avoid if you can. There are plenty of foodstuffs in the world that people are increasingly aware that they’re allergic too. Gluten, dairy, nut etc. And it appears wine is far from exempt from the list.

A 2012 study from Mainz in Germany found that Wine Intolerance was found to be far more prevalent in humans than originally expected, with nearly 9% of women and 5% of men reporting reactions. Now let’s be clear intolerance is not the same as being allergic, but the underlying reasons for the intolerances are nearly always common allergies in the population. So if you know you suffer from allergies, then make sure you’ve read this.

Common Allergens in Wine

There are several common ingredients in wine that are also common allergens:

1) Grapes

There’s not a lot you can do if you are allergic to grapes themselves or the proteins (amines) in grape juice and grape skins. If you’re allergic to these then I’m sorry, you just need to stick clear of wine.

2) Ethanol

Ethanol is the alcohol produced by yeast fermentation of sugars that you get in what we call alcoholic drinks. Again, if you know you’re allergic, you need to stick clear of wine, or at least stay on the non-alcoholic brands.

3) Yeast

Yeast is a tough a tough one. There are many forms of yeast, from the fungal genus saccharomyces, and wine makers use a heck of a lot of different ones. Try to stick to wines where you know they use naturally occurring rather than commercially developed yeasts, e.g. biodynamic and natural wines.

4) Sulfites

There is a lot said recently about the use of sulphites. Some sulphites are naturally occurring in the fermentation process and Sulphur Dioxide is used in small quantities across the wine making process often as an aid to hygiene. There is more Sulphur in a packet of dried fruit than in the average bottle of wine. But if you are sensitive to this, then try to stick to wines that aim for low or no added SO2, such as natural wines.

5) Fining Agents

These are additives used to clear the wine before bottling so it’s clear and bright in the bottle and on the shelves. They act as a protein binder, getting rid of the larger chunks of sediment before a final filtration. Common fining agents include egg whites, fish bladders, and some milk products. These should be labelled, but if you’re ever nervous then stick to vegan wines, which use a clay like substance called bentonite as a fining agent. Or you can head back to our old friend, the unfined and unfiltered natural wine.

We’re not saying this to put you off wine. But it’s well worth having in mind if you know you have allergies. Wine’s fantastic if you can sit and enjoy it with mates and just relax your way through an evening or a meal or whatever. But don’t suffer through it and definitely don’t put yourself in bother. Even if you have been practicing on an orange since you were 7.




We offer a range of natural wines including the Ancre Hill Pet Nat and Orange wines, and the Matthiasson Tendu red and white. Check them out online now:

For more information on that Mainz study, check out the link here:



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