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Low Histamine Wines for Fewer Headaches

Posted: Thursday, 28 May 2015 11:25

Low Histamine Wines for Fewer Headaches

May 28: There is a growing talk in the world about food intolerance as more and more young people suffer from it. Wine being a food product with similar characteristics, many people are also wine intolerant, writes Sebastiano Ramello who feels that the suffering can be eliminated or greatly reduced if histamine levels in wine are reduced significantly, based on his 5-year research working with Italian wineries, winemakers and laboratories recognized by the Italian Government.

Click For Large ViewLike most of the research and innovations, I started from a very simple idea. In my house we always had the opportunity to taste excellent high quality wines, as I am an international wine consultant and regularly receive samples from all over Italy. However, every time my family drank or tasted these wines including high quality wines, my mother would suffer from migraines and headaches, especially drinking red wine. Intrigued, we persuaded her to take tests and found that she was histamine intolerant.  I started the research about wines low in histamines in order to find a wine my mother could drink without causing problems.

Histamine Intolerance in food and wine

At this point I began to understand and then study the Histamines, their effects, where they were and who could be intolerant. My research led me to discover that for many years researchers, doctors, nutritionists had been speaking of histamine intolerance related to food.

HISTAMINE is a nitrogen compound widely distributed in the body where it plays a major role in inflammatory and allergic responses, in gastric secretions and in some brain activity. Besides humans, histamine can be produced by other organisms for simple decarbossilandone acid histidin.

The most characteristic example of food so rich in histamine that it causes problems for those susceptible to them, is eating fish too long. Those belonging to the family Scombridae, Clupeidae (family of sardines, hilsa etc.), Engraulidae and Coryphaenidae are the biggest culprits. But histamines are also found in good quantities in some cheeses, spinach, tomatoes, yeast extract, and fermented foods, chocolate, and even some fruits.

When I was ahead in the research, I discovered that most of histamines are present not only in foods but in wine, especially reds (A normal wine has a content of histamines that varies from 4mg / liter to 20mg / liter). At this point before taking the field research, my study was to understand the effects of intolerance.

All these foods rich in histamine either directly or indirectly (especially red wine with certain characteristics), when taken in large amounts can cause symptoms similar to those of food allergy, which technically is intolerance, because the immune system is not involved. It speaks in such reactions pseudo-allergic intoxication of histamines.

The research led me to believe that about 20% of the world population suffers from migraine headaches, caused mostly by an intolerance to histamine and  the intake of these foods, especially red wine, causes itching, redness of the face and neck, nausea, urticaria, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness or headaches. These symptoms vary depending on the concentration and the individual sensitivity to histamines. Particularly at risk are middle-aged women, (about 70% of people intolerant to histamines are estimated to be women) and people with severe primary or secondary DAO.

Low Histamines Association

These initial findings spurred me to start the project- Low-Histamines wines and I founded  the Association “Low Histamines”( It is the first Association in the world dedicated to the research of wines low in histamines and certifying themfor wine sensitive and histamine intolerant.

Research carried out with experiments with tasting made me discover that a level of histamines below 0.5mg per liter greatly reduces and sometimes eliminates the problem of headaches caused to those who are sensitive. Italian laboratories and we began to analyze wines from different Italian wineries for over a year, discovering the first wines (Dolcetto D’Alba doc and Barbera D’Alba doc) with incredibly low levels of histamines at the Veglio Michelino & Figlio Winery, located in the heart of Langa territory in Piedmont region of Italy. The level was higher than 0.5 mg/l, but much lower than the normal values of a red wine (about 1.5mg/l), ranging from 4mg / liter to 20 mg / liter, so Mr. Veglio joined the project as professional winemaker and together we began the search to decrease the histamines in wine following natural methods throughout the entire production chain.

Searching for Low Histamine wines

Here are the main points of the research we carried out with Veglio Michelino & Figlio:

THE FIRST STEP of the research was to understand the level of histamines that can be tolerated by those who are histamine intolerant - quantified at 20% of the world population.  The histamine intolerant cannot drink wine, especially red without having headaches and severe migraines.  Sulfites or tannins in red wines are usually associated with throbbing migraine headaches. When I taste red wines with customers, I often hear them say, I cannot drink red wine, the sulfites give me migraine” or “tannins in red wines give me migraine”. These statements are not necessarily untrue, but there is another culprit that has been identified – Histamines.

Histamine- the primary cause of headaches

Click For Large ViewResearch suggests that histamines are a primary cause of red wine headaches and more specifically, migraine headaches. Although generally referred to as an allergic reaction to histamine, the headache is, in effect a food intolerance. Clinical responses such as rashes, diarrhea, nausea/vomiting, and of course, headaches, are proportionally related to the amount of ingested histamine to those most sensitive. But new detection methods allow for more precise evaluation of histamine concentration in red wine (somewhere in the order of 250 ppb (parts per billion) that can be implemented during the wine-making lifecycle, from the quality of the grapes used to the hygienic condition through bottling.

Extensive testing was done with migraine sufferers with remarkable results. Of the migraine sufferers tested, only 22% reported that they do not normally get headaches from red wine.  The majority of patients who do get migraines after drinking red wines are women.

THE SECOND STEP was to bring the field research, analyzing for about a year and half of red wine all over the Italian territory through international testing laboratories certified by the Italian government. In the end after many analyses, I discovered two red wines of Piedmont, Italy, by the winery Veglio Michelino & Figlio, with incredibly low values of histamines, below 1.5mg/liter.

Still not happy with the result, I studied how to be able to further reduce histamines, working in the vineyard and in the winery during harvest, allowing them to bring them under the 0.5mg/liter. Another issue that required time, experimentation and study was to be able to stabilize the histamines, which we did through the efforts of winemaker Veglio Osvaldo.

After several attempts and experiments, we achieved the result of 0.5mg/Litre stabilized histamines. At this point began THE THIRD STEP, to test the low histamines of wines with those who are histamine intolerant and sensitive to red wine. The result was significant; it was found that 95% of histamine intolerant individuals who drank Low Histamines wine were not affected by the symptoms of intolerance, and the remaining 5%, the symptoms decreased by 90%.

These results suggested that we put acceptable value for the wines Low Histamines at 0.5mg/Liter. The first two wines in the world recognized as “Low histamines” are both Piedmont Italian doc wines:  Dolcetto d'Alba Doc and Barbera d’Alba Doc 2012, 2013 and 2014.

The search for low histamines wines continues today with Mr. Veglio and Mr. Marchisio as we began to explore new wines. We hope in the future to find out and certify new wines with Low Histamines in Italy and the rest of the world.

The association “” is focused on research and certification of wines with denomination, in order to ensure not only that a wine is low-histamine but also its provenance, originality and quality, so that one may follow the entire production chain.

Today it is a logo recognition and certification, coupled with a florescent orange capsule- each ‘Low Histamines’ wine that is recognized by certification logo and the florescent orange capsule.

Click For Large ViewThe main points in order to obtain low histamines level wines, below 0,5mg/l are:

1. 50% comes from the nature (soil) and we do not have a real control over it.

2. 25% comes from a strict control of the entire line of production and cultivation along all the 12 months;  first chemical fertilizer should be avoided or reduced as much as possible, then it is necessary an extreme focus during the beginning of the harvest: the grape must be healthy on the vine and must arrive quickly to the tables for crushing, in order to avoid fermentation from inside the basket. Another important point is that wooden barrels cannot be used, since the wood contains tannins that can interact with the wine producing a higher level of histamines.

3. The balance 25% is frankly a professional secret by the Our research let us, together with the help of our consultant wine maker Osvaldo Veglio,  discover the right way to reduce and stabilizing furthermore the histamines level of the wine; all this is made keeping the high original quality of the wine..

There is already talk of the effects of histamines in humans on the world stage, so much so that some countries, that are more sensitive to the problem of histamines present in wines have started recommending a maximum level of histamines in wines, these countries are:

Germany 2mg/l
Netherlands 3mg/l
Belgium 5-6mg/l
France 8mg/l
Switzerland and Austria 10mg/l
For more and more information please visit

Sebastiano Ramello

Sebastiano Ramello is an international wine consultant, wine writer and globetrotter from Piedmont region Italy, spending most of his time traveling to introduce Italian wines and discover new wines and wineries. In recent years he has focused and has been conducting research related to food intolerance related to wine.  He may be contacted at:

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Sebastiano Ramello Says:


Dear Sal, sulphites are not the main problem related to motion sickness wine head, but certainly a high level of sulfites with out controllaton are not good for our body. Regarding Tannins in part you are right, the tannins are one of the other causes that affect intolerance, but not the main, the main cause related intolerance linked to wine, especially red, are the histamines. There is a relationship between Histamines and tannins. to obtain a wine with histamines below the 0.5 mg / liter as request from "Low Histamines" group can not be used wooden barrels, as in the wood are bacteria, the main cause of histamines and tannins are also other cause. For more information you can contact me freely

Posted @ September 19, 2015 11:17


Sebastiano Ramello Says:


Dear Karen, in part you have reason, but the purpose of the Low Histamines association is get wines with level of histamina less than 0. 5mg/ l following natural methods. In addition you assure that even the best wine world contain histamine not less than the average described in the article. I confirm, however, what you say a good wine contains less histamine of the same type of bad wine. Not all wines may have these levels of histamine indicated by the but only the wines that have certain features. If you know wineries that produce wines with low level of histamines are most that welcome on the Low Histamines Association. Sebastiano Ramello

Posted @ May 29, 2015 18:20


Sebastiano Ramello Says:


Dear Sal, Given the research of Low Histamines we found that most people who have intolerance to sulfites are asthmatic. However, in part you are right, the main problem of the headache is not caused by sulfites but the high level of histamines and in part tannins because there is a relationship. For this reason, as described in the article, to obtain wines low in histamines not have to use wooden barrels but only steel, as the wooden barrels increase the tannins in wine. I am very happy to know that many of you know about the cause of migraine headaches is related to the histamines in wine, especially the red one. Sebastiano Ramello

Posted @ May 29, 2015 17:30


Karien Says:


It is well published (scientifically) that lactic acid bacteria performing the malolactic fermentation are the main source of biogenic amines that included histamine in wines. That is why red wine tend to be more of a culprit than whites. Lactic acid bacteria differ in their ability to convert amino acid precursors to biogenic amines and selecting bacteria with no or very low conversion is a major criteria for selection of commercial MLF starter cultures by companies nowadays. So wineries concerned about their histamine levels can successfully control it by inoculating for MLF and not let it "go natural." So that is why people often find that "cheap" red wines give them headaches and more expensive reds less so. MLF bacteria starter cultures are expensive so wineries tend to use it on their more expensive wines. If the more expensive wine does not fit your budget - pop an anti-histamine and some paracetemol after consuming red wine and hope that solves the issue:).

Posted @ May 29, 2015 14:26


Chris Cunningham Says:


Great research! I'm very curious about histamine production that is related to the secondary malolactic fermentation that most red wines undergo. If sulfites are added at crush, this secondary fermentation may be significantly delayed. Total sulfite levels as low as 12 mg/L can inhibit the ability of oenococcus oeni to complete ML in a timely manner. If no sulfites are added at crush, ML may complete within a week. If sulfites are added at crush, ML may take over a year to complete, usually while the wine ages in oak barrels and results in red wines with high levels of histamines. The bacteria responsible resides in the staves of the barrel. Perhaps this is the explanation for the relationship between sulfites, oak and histamine production?

Posted @ May 29, 2015 11:50


Sal Captain Says:


"I am sorry to inform you that most scientific research states that there is no correlation between Sulfites and headache at all. Also, I would have liked to see some pier reviews of your assertions, rather than “My research shows”. Overall, I agree that histamine is a contributor to headaches, but high levels of tannins are a bigger contributor. I am surprised you suggest that oak barrels should not be used, without offering an alternative, I use neutral barrels 50% of the time." Sincerely, Sal Captain, CEO

Posted @ May 29, 2015 10:32


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