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Goodbye to Wine Headaches?

A new strain of wine yeast will eliminate allergic reactions triggered by amines

February 21, 2011

The new yeast allows alcoholic and malolactic fermentation to occur simultaneously

Thanks to the aid of genetically modified (GM) yeast, wine drinkers may soon be able to imbibe without risking headaches, hypertension or migraines. As reported by The Vancouver Sun, a new strain of wine yeast has been developed at the University of British Columbia that produces less amines, a chemical in red wine and Chardonnay that is known to trigger these unwelcome reactions.

The GM yeast is the product of 15 years of research and testing by food biotechnologist Hennie van Vuuren. The malolactic yeast, known by the trade name ML01, reportedly does not introduce any new genetic material to the wine. The yeast allows alcoholic and malolactic fermentation to occur simultaneously, converting the current two-step fermentation process used by winemakers into one while eliminating the production of harmful toxins that can occur during malolactic fermentation. The report stated that the yeast is currently approved for commercial use in the United States, Canada and South Africa.

While this is great news to the amine-sensitive, consumers looking to avoid a headache will have a hard time finding these wines. The Vancouver Sun reported that winemakers are not required to include ML01 on the label, and most do not, fearing public backlash for the use of genetic engineering. Van Vuuren revealed that a few wineries in the U.S. and Canada are already using the yeast, with the Canadian Sandhill Winery among them producing test batches of ML01 wine.

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