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Winos Rejoice!

March 29, 2012

Eva Gusnowski

Aside from the I-just-woke-up-and-need-an-aspirin-immediately mornings, having a glass or two or four of wine can make for a relaxing night. That is, unless you’re one of 30% of the population who has an allergic reaction to wine, causing headache, palpitations, hypotension, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. And no, these don’t refer to the hangover most people get from drinking one too many glasses of vino.

 



As we’ve talked about before, the generation of wine is a fairly involved process. Many types of wine have to undergo a second fermentation reaction (mostly red wine) that converts malic acid to lactic acid, which is less tart and helps give the wine a specific mouthfeel. However, this reaction uses bacteria, which are prone to cause product spoilage and can produce histamine (a biogenic amine), which can act as an allergen trigger for many people. This is often referred to as a “red-wine-headache” and can begin as quickly as 15 minutes after consumption of the wine. These unfortunate individuals lack an enzyme (diamine oxidase) that scavenges extracellular histamine, resulting in high levels of histamine left in the body. This effectively mimics an allergic reaction (which can also be mediated by release of histamine), resulting in the symptoms of the red-wine-headache.

 

science in seconds, eva gusnowski, winos rejoice



A researcher, avid wine drinker and red-wine-headache sufferer, Dr. Hennie van Vuuren, has come up with a solution. He has developed a genetically modified (and a Canadian and American FDA commercially approved) strain of yeast that can perform the conversion of malic acid to lactic acid without the generation of histamine and a significant decrease in wine spoilage. This wonderful organism is simply called ML01: a lifesaver for oenophiles everywhere. Not only does this yeast prevent the generation of a red-wine-headache, it causes wines to taste better and have a better mouthfeel overall. Not too shabby for years and years of research.

So let’s send a big thanks Dr. van Vuuren for bringing his hobbies into his work. We should all be so lucky. (I bet their laboratory Christmas parties are off the hook!)

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