Saccharomyces cerevisiae in wine making/allergies

Just posting it out there, not expecting an organized response as I’m not really sure what I am looking for…

I am closer - but not yet there - to establishing “saccharomyces cerevisiae” as my problem allergen in many white wines and perhaps a trigger for my autoimmune disease. A 2001 Rieussec, which sadly is one of my highest scoring wine of 2019 YTD, wreaked me. Immediate throbbing tooth ache, body ache, back ache etc. I emailed with the estate and “saccharomyces cerevisiae” is the only non-native yeast they add to the wine. I also, per reading, seem to think that this S. Cerevisiae is present in many beers, ciders and white wines, more so than red wines – hence my allergy to whites and not reds. I also wonder if this means drinking higher end wines tends to be more organic/natural/native fermentation where this not an issue. Two natural whites tried in Paris did not have any reaction. Frankly, I can only think of a single red wine that caused a similar reaction, which was a Catena Zapata (I believe a 2010 malbec/cabernet blend) and I just emailed them to find out if they use this non-native yeast as well. I struggle to think of any other reds over the last 5YRs with similar reaction.

In terms of white wine allergies, it’s developed over time. A glass of French Laundry champagne from the restaurant in 2011 had no reaction, but a sip from a bottle purchased the same night tasted a few years ago was fire. Ciders have had the reaction as well. Rieslings often have the reaction. But a handful of Yquem, Suduiraut, Climens, tokaji and a lone mosel have not had the reaction. i will now email these estates to see if they use non-native yeast and specifically this S. Cerevisia.

This is the only other case I have heard of similar to me (a 2017 study of a US man who had to go to the UK to get diagnosed). It describes the fire sensation.

Am thinking of ordering all of these yeast strains and do a blind test, as painful as it may be. Interesting, S. Cerevisiae is used more in whites than reds.

If I can narrow it down to S. Cerevisiae, this could part of explanation for increased autoimmune disease over the last 20 years or so, per (but a shot in the dark):

There is an easy test for this. I don’t know where you live. If you are near Chio, CA, we will test you for free.

Otherwise see a local board certified allergist and the discussion can continue!

Seriously, free and we’d make you dinner later and drink wine you can tolerate. (Now I hope you live nearby!)

Have you had labs for your autoimmune disorder?

I don’t mean to pry.

I am neither a winemaker nor an allergist.
However, I am almost completely certain that S. cerevisiae is THE yeast used in winemaking, i.e. it is used in making ALL wines. There are many strains, which are thought to have different subtle effects on the wine, but all wine uses this yeast as the primary means of concerting sugar to ethanol.

Yep. Other species may start a ferm, or be active early on, but they all die off from ethanol toxicity well before a must is dry. The only exception I know of is, apparently, some strains of brettanomyces (not that you could really protect the must from cerevisiae from getting in).

This could be from something sometimes produced by the wine yeast. The only thing I can think of are biogenic amines, which can be produced by yeast under the right/wrong circumstances, but can also be present in wine via other means.

Anyway, best to follow Anton’s advice and get tested, then go from there. If you know what’s causing it (instead of guessing), you can them strategize.

Is OP having an elaborate ruse or being just extremely ignorant in regard to wine?

If one were allergic to the metabolites of saccharomyces cerevisiae, one really should abstain from drinking any alcoholic beverages - since S. cerevisiae is basically the only yeast that is used in making them.

Sure, there are tons of yeasts that can produce alcohol, but apart from brettanomyces and a few other rogue yeasts, S. cerevisiae is the only one that is tolerant of alcohol levels higher than ~5% ABV. That means that if you want to make wine, Saccharomyces it is.


It could be species dependent. But if not S Cerevisiae , then it is something else in whites I have yet to work through. Maybe it’s how the fermentation process impacts the yeast.

Thanks Anton. I appreciate the sentiment. I assure you I have been tested for a lot of things and in many different ways and if a trip to OH was the answer I’d make it weekly! To give context, I’m going to get an expensive FMT in the UK and am trying to meet the UK doctor who treated the US man (we have minor dialogue but that’s it so far). I have IGE and IGG reactions to many things including Brewers Yeast. The question is what is it about some alcohols, but not all (in the case of many whites/ciders/some beers) that causes instantaneous burning. It may be I am no closer to the answer here. It if it’s species dependent I doubt wineries will share with me their exact purchasing. I should pick up a large swath of SC perhaps to test… industrial but where is natural SC to be found?

Well the toothache and Rieussec would be from the sugar in it.

I wonder if sulfites might be at least part of the issue. They tend to be higher in white wines, and are often significantly higher in sweet wines, as I understand it. I used to get mild reactions at tastings of German rieslings (stuffed nose), though that’s less of an issue now as sulfur levels have been reduced in them.

It’s been an idea. Unfortunately, the sulfite levels of whites are higher but not a multiple higher (although sweets can be higher). I haven’t had issues with most botrytized grapes wines I’ve had in the past either. Lastly, using a sulfite wand in an offending white hasn’t cured it. Nor have dried fruit caused such an (acute) reaction.

Yes, sulfites don’t seem like a complete explanation. Also, I’m not sure what their levels are in beer.

Quite minuscule. Sulfites are never added to beer and the amount that forms during the fermentation is normally in the ballpark of 0-10 ppm.

My bet is on amines, though I did have a rather weird burning reaction to grapes sprayed with Serenade last harvest.

Thanks Evan.

  • Why do you say Amines, and is this something can differ wine-to-wine with any correlation of red to white? Are you thinking histamines generally? Amines is not something I am familiar with.
  • What was your reaction to the Serenade on the finished wine in the bottle or earlier in the production process?
  • What bummed me about the 2001 Rieussec is that’s a 18 year old wine at this point, and the reaction was still there. I had thought perhaps if it was indeed yeast, then the yeast would have broken down over a period of time. E.g., would I have the same reaction to the 2001 50 years from now?

I agree with Evan that amines might be something to consider. But I’m a bit vague on what your allergy symptoms are tho (i.e. separate from what the underlying cause might be)…so suggesting amines is a bit of a stab in the dark. Anyways, a histamine is an amine…and there are other types of amines, which can occur in wine (and elsewhere). Typically, these result from the secondary (malolactic) fermentation (referred to as ML), and usually when the wine hasn’t been inoculated for ML (i.e. ML proceeds ‘natively’, which is more likely to produce amines).

Are you allergic to copper?

Not that I am aware of. Oddly, I feel I can taste tin foil more than the average person… Eg a food wrapped in aluminum foil will taste a little tinny/off off putting to me, but no pain or anything.

It’s unlikely that Sc is the culprit if the OP has a worse reaction to whites than reds. Whites are much more likely to have been sterile filtered and therefore had any residual Sc cells removed. Many more reds are bottled unfined and unfiltered and could have some Sc cells floating around. But whites and sweet wines do tend to have more sulfur.

A few cider mfg who I had reactions to did tell me their wines were sterile filtered. I cannot find the emails however.