I can’t drink red wine.

It gives me headaches & hives…it’s the sulfites*, you know.

We have no doubt that many of you suffer from these reactions and don’t dispute that they can be caused by some red wines but the premise of this absolute statement is that there is only one type of red wine: big bruising tannic monsters in the mold of reserve style Cabs and Bordeaux from “big” vintages. In fact, there is a very large range of red wine styles that should give you no problem if a few common sense rules are followed (and we could also name a few whites that will set you off!). The agent provocateur at work here is usually tannic acid and other histamine type compounds extracted from grapeskins and also new oak barrels (*repeat after me: “the only scientifically proven reaction to Sulphur Dioxide is asthmatics get asthma attacks!”) so just keep these simple things in mind :

1) Just as you should never try to eat anything bigger than your head, people who have histamine reactions should never drink any wine they can’t see through. The pigments which give that huge black color to Chateauneuf du Pape, Aussie Shiraz, International Style “Barolo” and Amador Zins are just the thing to invoke the mother of all migraines in those who are so susceptible.

2) Avoid like the plague any wine which proudly boasts on the label that it was fermented in new oak barrels and also wines which have been aged for excessively long times (over 12 months) in same. A sweet faintly vanilla-ish bouquet is a dead give away!

3) Most Americans stop drinking water the minute they start drinking adult beverages. The secret to how those Euro-Trash friends of yours suck down so much wine / beer / whatever is that they also consume oceans of mineral water. A good rule of thumb is to drink eight ounces of water before every four ounces of wine or glass of beer or shot of hard stuff. Yes, you’ll have to got to the loo a lot but maybe you’ll meet someone who’ll option your screenplay while you do!

4) EAT SOMETHING!!!!!!!!

Careful analysis of the above rules will reveal an oft overlooked fact: it’s not cheap wine that give you a headache, it’s the big ticket items that were meant to be cellared for a couple of decades before consumption but that nobody waits that long for any more! What should you be drinking? Try something from Puglia, the lighter end of the Chianti spectrum, the lovely soft Bordeaux-ish blends from Friuli, Valpolicella, lighter Pinot Noirs, the list goes on and on. Also, older vintages may have mellowed enough to avoid trouble. Ask us about examples we have in the store right now that should give you no problems…



* “What…happened…to him….Bones?” 

“He died of Sulfite depravation, Jim…”

So you don’t want to ingest any Sulfites, eh, Mr. Natural? That stoner manning the counter at the Co-Op told you they were “toxins”, right? Well here’s some sound scientific advice from someone who not only attended and passed High School Chemistry but went on to earn a  Master of Science in Public Health Microbiology, WINE EXPO-ista Linda Olsen Weber, R.E.H.S., M.S.:

“Are you CRAZY?!?!? We need these chemicals. Your body contains about 6 ounces of sulfur, mostly in amino acids, which combine to make proteins, which in turn combine to make all sorts of body parts- – -Skin, hair, nails and connective tissues. Sulfur is also a part of insulin, heparin and polysaccharides in the matrices of your cartilage, bones and teeth. You NEED to consume sulfur to replenish the supply to your body. Sources include meat, legumes, cabbage, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, garlic and – – – you guessed it – – – wine and beer!  What do you smell when you chop garlic? Diallyl disulfide. Chives, leeks and onions? Other disulfides. And when you cook cabbage? Hydrogen sulfide, methyl sulfide and trisulfides. And when (pardon my French) you fart? You guessed it – – more sulfur byproducts! If you’re still bothered by the idea of sulfur products in your wine (you’re on your own with garlic), aerate the wine – – – pour it into another container before serving. This will allow excess sulfur dioxide to escape, but you may lose some good aromas as well. I think I’ll pour mine directly from the bottle to my glass, Bon appetit!”

Thank you, Linda! Now, for those of you attributing all manner of symptoms such as hives, sinus, migraine and flushing of the skin to sulfites, these are in fact HISTAMINE reactions and are caused by pigments, tannins and the effect of fermenting and aging in wooden barrels. Give us a call and we will fax or e-mail you a full-page info sheet on what causes these reactions and commonsense ways to avoid them (most of which do not involve giving up drinking wine!)