hello. i'm hoping someone here can shed some light on this problem: my sister gets a violent, food poisoning-like reaction to some red wines. symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, chills, and a red flush on her face. But it only seems to happen when she drinks French wine; the last time it was a French wine with an alcohol content of nearly 15 percent. she lives in italy and drinks chianti and other italian wines with no problem, but did have the reaction once after some homemade red wine in sardegna. she never drinks white.

anyone have any ideas, or a thought on where i might find more information? i was thinking maybe there's some difference in how the wine is processed, or the grapes, but i really don't know much about it. any thoughts would be appreciated!

Original Post
It sounds like she is alergic to the sulfides (or is itr sulfites?) in wine. These are added to preserve the wine. This isn't as common as most people believe. I often hear people saying... "I get a headache drinking red wine... it must be the sulfides." However, only 1/10th of 1% of the population is acually alergic to it. But when a person has something with sulfides in it, they get very bad reactions.

A lot of the TABLE wine in Italy does not contain sulfides, hence she can drink it. However, almost every bottled wine does contain some sulfides.
I am not a doctor, so I always hesistate to offer advice in these matters, but I have read that some people have these kinds of reactions to the alcohol, so perhaps this is what she is experiencing. My reason for saying so is because you mentioned that she had a reaction to a wine that had nearly 15% and most Italian table wines are generally much lower in alcohol content (12.5 to 13). If the reaction is that bad, she should probably see a doctor asap, especially if she's a regular wine drinker.
I thought that sulfites were naturally occuring in the grape and then wine makers added addtional sulfites for preservation. There are wines out there that contain *no sulfites* these are wines where the original sulfites occuring from the grape are actually removed and are not used at all in preservation. Organic wines contain less because sulfites are not used at all, but still contain some because of the natural occurance in the grape.
Trust me on this one...you probably consume more sulfites in your daily meals, etc. than you would in a couple glasses of wine.

It's a myth that European wines don't contain added sulfites (not including organically made wines). They merely don't have to include a warning on the label unless they export to the US.

Benchland could be right...a histamine problem (I'm certainly no doctor, though). Generalizing, but a French wine (Bdx?) would likely have a much higher phenolic content than a Chianti. Perhaps she is allergic to some sort of phenolic compound? I'm not sure if this is even possible. Perhaps a processing issue...something used for tannin fining? Egg whites, perhaps?
Originally posted by winerugger:
It's a myth that European wines don't contain added sulfites (not including organically made wines). They merely don't have to include a warning on the label unless they export to the US.
Are you sure? I'm pretty sure it is true in Italy. If you order a table wine at an Italian restaurant, there are no added sulfites. One of my co-workers families runs a place in souther Italy, and he said (as did several of the restaurant owners we spoke to on our honeymoon) restaurants have contracts or buy wine directly from small wineries. They are made for immediate drinking (and hence, no sulfites added for spoilage prevention).
I certainly can't say for sure in all cases. It would make sense if the wine was guaranteed to be drunk right away. A white without free SO2 would smell like sherry pretty quickly. A red might be able to hold out a bit longer, but we're talking a matter of a few months. Not sure why they'd take those risks, but it's possible.

People always say they only drink Euro wines because they're sensitive to sulfites. In fact, Sauternes and botrytised German wines are bottled at SO2 levels an order of magnitude higher than is typically used in rest of the world.

Must have been a nice honeymoon...wine and food in Italy Smile

Good call. I know many people who have traveled to Italy and said they can drink all the wines there, but not here. I can't believe that everyone who says they are alergic to sulfites actually are. I mean I'm almost 100% positive the percentage is 1/10th of 1%!!!

And yes, the honeymoon was great. It was only 1 week in Tuscany, the first week was in Santorini!!!
bman, please extend professional courtesy greetings to your Dad. We horse whisperers need to acknowledge each other every now and then.

Once again, I feel for this poor woman. With all the vomiting and diarrhea, I don't know how the family is holding up. Personally, I can easily deal with both, but the red flashes and chills simultaneously? Please, Doctor, let me go in peace. You would be surprised to know how many of my patients end up "falling into deep sleep" after displaying such symptoms around their owner's residences. People don't even blink when it comes to protecting their laminate floors, or, God forbid, carpets.

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