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Dolcetto championed as low histamine grape variety

An Italian wine consultant is working to raise the profile of low histamine wines believing the category to hold great potential, particularly in the UK and US, given that up to 4% of the world’s population is thought to be intolerant to the naturally occurring organic compound.

Sebastiano Ramello, president and founder of Low Histamines

Wine consultant Sebastiano Ramello founded Low Histamines in 2011 with the aim of producing a range of wines with a histamine level of less than 0.5mg/litre.

Histamines are found in a variety of food stuffs in varying levels, including wine, however up to 4% of the population is thought to be intolerant, with the most common complaint persistent migraines. Intolerance to the compound is heightened in people unable to produce sufficient levels of the enzyme Dao.

Foods known to contain higher levels of histamines include cured meats, mature cheeses, tomatoes and aubergines, as well as red wines.

“I started this project because of my mother in the beginning as she was histamine intolerant. I’m a wine expert, not a doctor, so I worked with some doctors over the last five years to study more about this. Mostly histamines are found in red rather than white wine because the skins and the tannins carry more histamines”.

Eventually Ramello, discovered two red wines being produced in the Italian region of Piedmont by Veglio Michelino & Figlio with naturally low levels of histamines – less than 1.5 mg/litre. This led Ramello to determine that the Italian grape variety Dolcetto carries naturally lower levels of histamines than other grape varieties, like Nebbiolo for example, which is a grape high in tannin.

“The level of histamine in Dolcetto was less than normal”, explains Ramello. “Normal histamine levels go from 4 to 20mg/litre”, explained Ramello. “This Dolcetto was already about 1 to 2.5% without doing anything. The second step was how to understand more about histamine in the wine to reduce the histamine”.

With the help of winemaker Osvaldo Veglio, and after several experiments in the vineyard, the pair were able to produce a range of wines with a histamine level of less 0.5mg/litre; a Dolcetto D’Alba DOC, Barbera D’Alba DOC and its top Diano D’Alba DOCG – a 100% Dolcetto.

While much of the winemaking process to control histamines relies on using the correct grape variety, selecting the right soils and ensuring hygiene in the vineyard, Ramello admitted that the final part of the process was a “secret” to ensure others producers are not able to replicate their results. All of the wines, however, are produced to DOC and DOCG standards. 

“We have focused on wines from DOC and DOCG areas because we want to be sure of the quality of the wine”, said Ramello. “You can’t just remove histamines in a laboratory or with chemicals. We want to be sure that the wine is low histamine”.

The first vintage released was the 012 with Ramello now working to bring the range to the UK, USA and China, where he says there is strong demand for such wines.

“I think there is a lot of potential”, he said. “From my experience most of the people that come to me are from the UK and USA. It’s a revelation because before nobody was talking about intolerances in wine, only food. But wine is food. It’s just a liquid food. It has the same character as food. I am really sure that this will not stop. It’s just a matter of time, maybe one or 10 years, but I’m sure that this will be a part of the wine industry that will grow”.

Ramello is already looking to work with other winemakers in South Africa and the USA to produce further low histamine wines.

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