Only a few years ago, researchers found out that some biogenic amines can trigger the complaints. They continue to research intensively on the origin and effects. Some of them is the histamine (also tyramine, phenylethylamine, serotonin, putrescine & spermidine), which is produced by the human body to control and manage various body functions such as gastric acid production, cell growth and the sleep-wake cycle. The symptoms mentioned are similar to an allergic reaction, but in fact they belong to the food intolerances or pseudoallergies. They are an intolerance reaction to certain foods and their ingredients.
Unfortunately, this can be the case with wine! Meanwhile, there are "histamine-free" wines. The taste reminds me of non-alcoholic wine. The reason is a disturbed reduction. People affected by a deficiency of the enzyme diamine oxidase (DAO) can not break down the histamine properly. According to an analysis from 2017, about 1-3% of the European population, especially middle-aged women, is most affected.
Biogenic amine is a protein break down product that can be found as a natural ingredient in food. You can find it in large quantities in some type of fish, such as tuna, herring, sardine and mackerel, and in everything that is fermented or microbially produced, such as cheese, sauerkraut, salami, raw sausage, soy sauce, sparkling wine, wine, cider, viez and beer.
Amines are already produced in very small quantities in the grapes after the harvest. Its pH value, maturity and further processing play a decisive role. The main goal of "malic acid-lactic acid fermentation" is to convert the immature acids (malic acids) into the milder lactic acids by adding milk protein bacteria. This process is also known as "malolactic fermentation". This process is commonly used with Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc, Silvaner and Champagne. However, histamine is produced as a by-broduct. The bacterial strain used is decisive for the values. Low-acid musts with high pH values promote the growth of harmful bacteria. They may be the major producers of biogenic amines.
Outside the EU and in the warm climatic zones of the EU, the high pH value can be 'corrected' by systematic acidification and thus be adjusted against harmful bacteria. Usually, people react more frequently to red wine than to white wine, which must is usually stored in steel tanks. Each red wine goes through a second fermentation under the malolactic acid reduction. In the thin-skinned (more acid) red grape varieties is the histamine level generally lower such as in Pinot Noir, St. Laurent, Trollinger, Blaufränkisch, Nordrhône-Syrah. It is generally higher in the thick-skinned or less acidic red grape varieties such as Merlot, Cabernet, Malbec & Nebbiolo. Affected people have less problems with white wines when its pH value is below 3.4. Unfortunately there are no fixed rules presently.
Crustaceans, strawberries and citrus fruits can also set free histamine spontaneously in the body. Because histamine is resistant to heat and frost, its level can not be reduced by cooking, baking or freezing. Especially with fish, care must be taken to ensure proper storage and preparation
The EU-Regulation 2073/2005 requires microbiological product studies on histamine for certain type of fish and fishery products. There is a limit of 200 mg / kg (for anchovy 400 mg/kg). Discussions have already taken place in the EU on and to what extent it makes sense to identify histamine levels in wine and indicate them on labels.
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