Monday, April 7, 2008

Allergic to Wine

So last week a WFD participant, who has a dairy allergy, asked about casein in wine. I knew that egg was often used in the wine making process, but didn’t know where exactly and now I find out that dairy is in wine too?

The next morning, I got on the case and emailed a colleague, noted wine expert Tyler Coleman, otherwise known as Dr.Vino.

Tyler had this to say about eggs, casein and wine: “Yes, egg whites are a common fining agent and yes, casein is sometimes used. But there are no labeling standards to indicate which ones (but the Feds are talking about new labeling for wine). Until then, check for wines that are bottled ‘unfined and unfiltered’--they often taste better anyway.”

Unfined? What’s that?

I turned to another colleague and expert, wine consultant Remy Ash to help me sort out these terms. Remy pulled some facts about the fining and filtration process from the Oxford Companion to Wine, 3rd Edition by Jancis Robsinson.

“The biggest reason for fining and filtering wines is to remove molecules of colloidal size, such things as polymerized tannins, pigmented tannins, other phenolics and heat unstable proteins. Filtration acts only on particles compared to fining which works on particles and soluble substances. The whole idea of fining and filtering is achieving a state of clarity for the wine in a quick more economical fashion. Most wines are left for the proper amount of time (usually months) in the proper conditions would achieve the same effect of fining."

"The different types of fining agents are classified in two general classes. Inorganic chemicals…like bentonite, silica, activated carbon (coal) and sometimes potassium ferrocyanide. Or organic Compounds…[like] casein from milk, albumin from egg whites, isinglass [fish bladder] and gelatin.”

(FYI: Here’s an interesting article breaking down the fining process from a vegetarian standpoint.)

Kosher wine, according to Marty Siegmeister, NY/NJ/Metro brand manager for Allied Importers [second largest wine importer in the US], typically does not use casein in the process of fining or filtering their wine. Marty says: “The material used is one of the important things determining if the wines are kosher or not. No animal products are used or dairy products like casein. However, sometimes egg is used since it is parve Usually they use some type of clay, similar to what is used in some swimming pool filters..”

The question in all of this for an allergic diner is: do any of the organic fining agents have an impact of the end products allergenicity? Here’s an interesting article about wine allergies debunking the whole sulfite issue and here is an article pointing to sulfites as the culprit and a third article from Beekman Wines in New jersey that breaks down the possible causes of wine allergies. A bit more digging discovered this interesting site and article from the Allergen Bureau about the potential allergenicity from egg, casein and fish parts.

-The Scientific Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies of the European Food Safety Agency has recently released opinions on the likelihood of individuals suffering allergic reactions in relation to a number of processed foods.

--The Panel considered it “unlikely” that cereals, nuts or whey used in distilled spirits would lead to severe allergic responses. A similar conclusion was reached for vegetable oils-derived phytosterols and phytosterol esters from soybean and for natural tochopherols from soybean.

-It was considered “not very likely” that wheat based maltodextrins or wheat of barley starch based glucose syrups would cause severe allergic responses. None of these products were determined to be of concern to celiacs, provided the concentration of gluten considered by Codex Alimentarius for foods rendered gluten-free is not exceeded. It was also considered “not very likely” that isinglass would trigger an allergic response when used as a clarifying agent in beer.

Now to our WFD diner’s question about dairy in the wine making process. “The Allergen Bureau panel considered that milk and milk products used in winemaking may trigger allergic responses.”


As with all things, consult with your GP or allergist about your allergies and food sensitivities but I hope this article will help you to start understand your possible allergic or non-allergic relationship to wine.

As for some Kosher brands to try, according to Marty:
Tabor Wines uses eggs to fine but not dairy.
Yarden has an organic line.


ChupieandJ'smama said...

Vegan wines would be safe too. Obviously my son doesn't drink wine, but sometimes I cook with it so I only buy vegan due to his egg and milk allergies. Here is a link to a vegan "spirits" website:
Yep, food allegies hide in the darndest places.

Allergic Girl said...

great suggestion, thank you!

Karina said...

CandJ's Mama beat me to it! ;) Great list!

I have to be careful with wine due to egg and casein allergies. Vegan wines are an excellent place to start.

Allergic Girl said...

yes! do you have any favorites goddess karina?

Greyhair said...

I grow wine grapes and make wine. Indeed, egg whites are used as a fining agent (although it's my understanding that it's not used that often ... it's probably used in white wines much more frequently than reds). But as you mentioned, "unfined and unfiltered" wines are easy to find and really better anyway.

I am allergic to sulfa/sulfur and it's derivatives. Sulfur is used on wine grapes to prevent mold/mildew. But fortunately it has a short residency on the grapes and is not used near harvest.

Potassium and/or Sodium metabisulfite is used as a preservative in virtually all wine that is made. And it gives me the itchies. But I love me some red wine too?

The solution is to decant. Sulfites in wine blow off out of solution readily, which is one of the reasons for decanting in the first place. If a wine is opened and allowed to sit decanted for a hour or more (sometimes a full day really improves the wine dramatically!), the very small amounts of sulfites (usually less than 50 parts per million) will dissipate quite nicely leaving a better wine and less threat to those of us who are allergic to sulfites.

Natalie MacLean said...

great post, very informative!


Editor of Nat Decants Free Wine Newsletter

Author of Red, White and Drunk All Over

Karina said...

Why yes, I do!

To start, a bottle of Veuve Clicquot is always in my fridge. I mean, always (because you never know when you'll feel like celebrating).

I like Kendall Jackson for a safe Chardonnay. Fetzer for Reisling. And good ole cheap Yellow Tail for reds (better than Frey wines- which I *want* to love, but are kinda, Eh...).

Couvoisier for cognac.

I need to branch out more- but frankly, where we live it's tough. I take what I can (safely) get.



Allergic Girl said...

thanks for your comment, greyhair, re:sulfites.

so interesting. first that you make wine, how cool.

second that decanting helps to diffuse the sulfites.

it's the same with sulfites on dried fruit (not that i eat commercial dried fruit anymore) but when i did and i would feel wheezy after opening some dole's dried apricots my allergist said 1. i'm allergic to sulfites, fun, 2. that opening the bag and letting them breathe for a few hours would get rid of the sulfite issues. i switched to organics which are untreated. but interesting to note the similarities.

thanks again!

and dear karina: i'm a veuve girl as well. always have a bottle chilling in the fridge, i actually have a bottle of their rose waiting to be chilled as well. funny...

Allergic Girl said...

thanks nat and welcome!

Karen said...

I too have reactions to wines that I suspect have to do with sulfites and egg whites. I never knew about decanting helping with the sulfite issue. Will have to try that.

I discovered wines from Arrowhead Mtn. in Sonoma that are unfiltered and wonderful. They do not seem to bother me. Also, I have had luck with some French and Chilean wines that are made the old-fashioned way and are aged rather than had things added to them to accelerate the aging. Someone told me that Chile's climate doesn't seem to require the usage of so many pesticides, so maybe that is why I don't react as much to them.

Karen herself

Shannon B. said...

Ohh, very interesting topic, I love this post very much. Intense, informative, and I had no idea that egg & dairy were being used for fining.

Go Worry Free Dinners!

Allergic Girl said...

thanks shannon!

CeliacChick said...

VERY interesting!

I get a rash on my face sometimes after drinking wine. I always thought that it was probably from corn somewhere in the process or yeast, but the yeast didn't totally make sense because sometimes I'm not affected at all. Since I have a casein allergy this now makes TOTAL sense!! Yay! I'm not crazy! "Unfiltered and Unfined!"

You know, I made my own liquers this winter..been meaning to blog about it...super easy...I'll have to link to this discussion!

Allergic Girl said...

hey chick,
that is wild!
yes, try vegan or kosher wines without casein...
and i cant wait to hear about your Chick Wine! ;-)