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Over the years, we have seen an increasing number of wine drinkers show up in our tasting room because they heard through the grapevine that wine allergy sufferers can enjoy Cantiga wines with no ill effect. When we first heard this years ago, we began an informal study on why this might be the case. It has been an enlightening journey for us, and we are happy to share some of our findings, below.


While at first, cases of wine allergies were relatively rare, these days, we estimate that 1 in 5  of our customers suffer from a wine sensitivity or allergy. What are the factors responsible for this increase? We’re not entirely sure—but we speculate that there has been a shift in the North American wine making culture toward more processing, additives, and new strains of yeast and malolactic, all of which increase histamine levels.  


What are wine sensitivities?


Like many of the foods we eat, wine can potentially cause a wide spectrum of symptoms and allergic reactions. Red wine tends to cause more adverse reactions than white, due to higher levels of tyramines and histamines, although white can be a bigger problem for sulfite sufferers. One of the most frequently experienced symptoms is headache or migraine. Other reactions can include congestion, sneezing, sore throat, skin rash, heartburn, stomach cramps, wheezing or difficulty breathing. Scary? You bet!

What causes wine reactions?


High sulfite levels in some wines are probably the leading cause of wine reactions—particularly congestion, respiratory problems, digestive problems, and skin rashes. We’ve also been gathering some evidence that malolactic fermentation bi-products sometimes trigger migraines, as is the case with a number of our customers. There is, in fact, research that ties certain strains of malolactic bacteria with tyramine production, which can cause hypertension and migraine. Additionally, we theorize that each process or additive to the wine increases its level of natural toxins. Generally, cheaper wines that have been “fixed” have been manipulated far more than higher-end, well-made wines—that is why you can expect to react more to Two-Buck Rotgut.

Why are Cantiga wines different?


Why do our customers who suffer from wine allergies claim no adverse reactions from our wines? The reason is our minimal-intervention wine making style.


Our goal is to make classic-style wines for the dinner table that can be aged for decades, the way wine used to be aged. This is achieved through gentle handling and avoiding malolactic (secondary) fermentation—thus preserving the wine’s natural acidity, balance and pure varietal character. The wines are then aged for an average of five years before they are released—a practice virtually unheard of in a market-driven era. It is a happy coincidence that our stylistic goals happen to also have health benefits!


To elaborate on what we mean by “minimal intervention,” we do not use enzymes, fancy yeasts, fining agents, color enhancers or any other additives to achieve our wine making goals, and the higher acidity of our wines allows us to keep sulfite levels very low. The wine is made the way it was for centuries. It’s like stepping into the past, into a time that predates processing, additives and food allergies. Cantiga wines are not certified organic, they are simply, common-sense pure and clean to the last drop.

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