A recent study reveals that a surprising number of people are allergic to wine, and many don’t even realize it.

Researchers from Johannes Gutenberg University surveyed thousands of people living in western Germany about their physiological responses to wine consumption.

Of the nearly 950 participants, 25 percent indicated that they experienced symptoms of alcohol intolerance. These symptoms are commonly written off or believed to be the result of other health issues. The most common symptoms included flushed and itchy skin, congestion and an increased heart rate. According to the author of the study, Heinz Decker, PhD, women were more than twice as likely to suffer from an allergy to wine than men.

What Causes a Reaction?

Wine contains proteins from grapes, yeast and bacteria in addition to sulfites and other organic compounds. According to Decker, any one of these things can cause an allergic reaction. And while these components are also found in other kinds of alcohol, such as hard liquor and beer, red wine is most likely to cause an allergic reaction because it contains a protein allergen known as LTP, which is found in the skin of grapes. On the other hand, white wine is made without grape skins.

Common Symptoms

Common symptoms of an allergy to wine include flushing in the face, nasal congestion, diarrhea, vomiting, shortness of breath, and swelling of the lips, mouth or throat. However, you may just be suffering from a more general form of alcohol intolerance. The ethanol present in all types of alcohol can cause blood vessels to expand, causing the skin to flush.


There is good news for those with an allergy to red wine: If your symptoms are tolerable, you don’t necessarily have to give up red wine, says Decker. However, if your symptoms are bothersome, consider switching to white. The same goes for any other type of alcohol; if you don’t react well to one type, switch to another. If your symptoms are severe (e.g., you have trouble breathing), put the bottle back on the shelf and consult a doctor immediately.

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