Raise a glass because it’s ‘not sulphites that are giving you a ...

Lifestyle

Raise a glass because it’s ‘not sulphites that are giving you a headache’

A study has found that bacterially created chemical compounds cause allergies or intolerances in wine drinkers

Michael Fridjhon

It’s surprising how long it took for winemakers to develop a complete grasp of the chemistry involved in the transformation of grapes to wine. Scientists had put astronauts into space before oenologists fully understood what happens during malolactic fermentation. Nowadays there’s plenty of research money, but it’s usually directed at industry rather than consumer priorities. 

There certainly hasn’t been enough of a focus on consumers’ adverse reactions to wine. This may be because producers believe they can ignore the loss to the market of wine drinkers who have developed intolerances and allergies, though the numbers are higher than they realise, and have been growing. It may also be because there’s a puritanical streak among the medical research community, many of whom are dealing with life and death issues, so a few people doing without the occasional glass of wine is hardly a concern.

It turns out a significant number of wine enthusiasts suffer from allergies or intolerances associated with their favourite beverage. Mostly they seem to think of the discomfort as inevitable: the price paid for pleasure, a little like the certainty of hay fever as a rite of spring. The conventional scapegoat is sulphur dioxide. It is certainly implicated if the levels are as high as they need to be for bag-in-the-box wines, but otherwise it is unlikely to affect any but the most at-risk asthmatics...

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