For the last year, I've been experiencing chronic itching that has been driving me batty. It typically gets worse in the evenings, but it can also manifest itself in the mornings when I am waking up at 4 or 430am and starting my work day, hosting international conference calls with 50 to 100 engineers calling in some mornings with me as the ring master / orchestra leader / debate moderator. Sometimes the itch was so severe that I'd scratch until I bled, arms, legs, neck, chest, back... it was unsustainable. So upon the advise of my wise friends Steve and Ron, as well as DDF, I went on an elimination diet in February that last 2 months, eating a mono-diet of simple foods and adding one thing at a time, one week at a time, to see what the effects were. Problem was, I didn't exclude wine from my diet, as I love it so very much.
I have known for many years (more than 10 years) that Valpolicella, a delicious red Italian wine, caused my neck and chest and face to turn red, itch, and made it hard for me to breathe. Other wine varietals grown nearby did not have that effect, so I just avoided Valpolicella. And looking back through the 221 postings here on wine, I enjoyed many different types of red wine from many different countries over the years. But I started noticing this summer, that after drinking a glass or two of Bordeaux (usually 50% merlot + other varietals) that I'd start to itch, my hands would turn pink or red, and forearms would start to light up with intense surges of itching, and I'd generally be miserable. Falling asleep that night was rough. Going to work the next morning, the itch resurfaced and drove me out of my mind. So I started avoiding Bordeaux.
I stuck to Syrah and Malbec, and other varietals like Primitivo, Nero d'Avola, and my favorite, Minervois. Kept it to a glass or two... but even then, over the last few months, the itching resurgence was directly correlating. Stay away from wine, itch is much less. Drink wine, itching flared up right after and the next morning. So a few weeks ago, I bought a bottle of Santa Julia Malbec, Mendoza Argentina, made with organic grapes. Sprouts sold it for $9 a bottle, and I've had good organic wine from them before, so I thought... "let's see". Santa Julia was good, drinkable, paired well with the grass fed steak I had grilled... but still, the itching flared up after drinking it. I fooled myself into thinking "maybe it was a bad bottle... the next one won't cause me to itch!" So last week, I bought a second bottle, and opened it up that night with dinner. Before the 2nd small glass was done, I could feel my arms starting to itch. When I went to bed that night, my neck and chest and back were itching as well. Highly medicated, I eventually fell asleep, and upon waking the next day was hit with the regular resurgence of itching.
2 days ago, I saw the last glass still in the bottle. I felt bad leaving it in the bottle and DDF doesn't like most red wines, so I poured the last 4 ounces into a small Phoenix Desert Botanical Gardens glass, and had it with lunch. Soon thereafter, the tops of my hands turned pink, the itch began creeping up... it was not the Malbec's fault. It's my over-reactive immune system that has now decided that Joe's had enough red wine in his lifetime, and it's going to punish me if I have anymore. Just 4 ounces, and my immune system over-reacted, again. = \
So I've had a glass of white wine, and it's ok... but without the tannins and the depth of flavor, I can't help but seeing it as empty calories. Fine for a hot summer afternoon with cheese perhaps... but... not something I want to have with dinner regularly. Adieu, delicious reds... I bid you farewell, with much remorse.
It's a good thing that bourbon and Irish whiskey cause no such itching for me. I've not yet run extensive Cognac experiments, but I fear with Cognac's geographic proximity just North of Bordeaux, that it may stimulate a similar immune response from my insides, on the outside. Vodka and ice and some small amount of mixers for flavor (like lemonade or 100% cranberry juice + stevia) also have no ill effects with itching or anything else. And no, my liver is not having problems... my liver function tests are just fine, checked more than once a year, just in case. One must choose their poison, very carefully.