For anyone who has ever misbehaved after a few glasses of wine, blaming an allergy to alcohol may seem the perfect way to wriggle out of any post-booze apologies the morning after.

But for a very small number of us, an allergy to wine is a real (and inconvenient) truth.

Unlike a sensitivity or intolerance, an allergy is when the immune system reacts to a normally harmless substance.

In this case, that normally harmless, though tasty substance, is wine.

Fortunately, a true allergy to wine is extremely rare, though as anyone who has ever had a bit of a session will attest, it’s entirely possible to display symptoms of it without being allergic.

What are the symptoms of a wine allergy?

While many of us suffer diarrhoea, headaches and skin flushes after too many drinks, for some, these may be signs of an underlying intolerance to wine and the grapes involved in the production (though the jury is still out on whether skin flushing is indicative of an allergy).

Those with the allergy may suffer cramps and difficulty breathing when they drink certain wines - though they may drink others and not have any reactions.

What causes allergic reactions to wine?

It’s bad news for fans of red, as researchers found that those who suffer the allergy tend to suffer more when they drink it as opposed to white wines or roses.

Rarely is the reaction caused by alcohol, more often it is the chemicals used in the wine making process - that’s the sulphites and histamines - to keep bacteria at bay and stop the plonk from going sour which are the culprits (though, again, it is very rare to be allergic to sulphites). 

If you suffer from this allergy, you may also have a similar reaction to certain products which contain sulphites, like dried fruits, cider and pickled food. 

And while it is very uncommon, reports that some people with asthma, urticaria and rhinitis might be more prone to allergies to alcohol than others.

What can you do?

Short of corking your bottles, if you think you might be sensitive to wine, look out for those made using less of the preservative sulphites and histamines (these help keep the wine bacteria free).

Bear in mind that white wines and roses generally have higher levels of sulphites - as do some light-bodied reds - while reds tend to have higher levels of histamine.

Organic wines and biodynamic wines are a good starting point as these tend to be made with fewer chemicals, though many bottles do not display this info. Make a note of any drinks you’ve had – including the type of wine, as well as what you’ve eaten so you can pinpoint the problem bottles, and as always, it’s best to check with your GP with any concerns.

Have you ever suffered? Tell us in the Comments box below.