"Vanilla" is one of the aromas used when described red wines.

I am allergic to natural proteins in vanilla, per Elisa blood test. I am interested to know whether the red wine will contain actual vanillin, or whether the aroma comes from unrelated substances.

  • Hello! We cannot say what you are or aren't allergic to. A health professional needs to determine that (probably by testing you personally), not cooks. – rumtscho Jun 18 '15 at 16:56
  • 2
    I first closed your question because it's about medical advice. Then I noticed that we can answer at least one small part of it: whether the substance people smell in red wines is really vanillin (the one which is smelled in vanilla) or not. So I edited and reopened. The catch: if the answer is "no", this is still no guarantee that you can drink these wines, because we don't know exactly what you are allergic to (vanilla has many more substances than vanillin). But we couldn't have answered the original q, so I think leaving that part open is better than closing outright. – rumtscho Jun 18 '15 at 17:01
  • Are you allergic to artificial/imitation vanilla? It's basically just synthetic vanillin (possibly even produced from wood pulp), so if you're not allergic to that, you shouldn't assume you'll be allergic to other things that contain vanillin. – Cascabel Jun 19 '15 at 15:59

Oak aging can indeed produce real vanillin, whether in wines or other liquids (spirits, beer, even vinegars can all be oak-aged) among thousands of other flavorful compounds. Somewhat surprisingly, it seems that vanillin is commonly synthesized for use in artificial vanilla extracts from lignin, a fibrous compound that serves to strengthen the cell walls in wood, or from guaiacol, an oil derived in turn from lignin.

However, this doesn't imply that you will necessarily have an allergic reaction to vanillin based on the information you've provided. Vanillin is a flavorful aromatic compound, and not a protein (which typically have much larger, more complex molecular structures). "Real" vanilla extracted from the eponymous bean gets much of its flavor and aroma from vanillin, but it contains much else besides. If you're definitely allergic to the proteins, those would be present in extract from actual vanilla beans, but not in vanillin produced from other sources such as wood, and therefore not present in oak-aged wines.

The caveat, of course, is that I'm not a doctor, an allergy specialist, or anything remotely close. You should confirm this with them before risking discomfort or bodily harm.


Wine that is aged in oak barrels, or with oak pieces or chips will contain a trace of real vanillin according to scientists. Red, white and rose varieties can be oaked, not just red wines, Chardonnay is a perfect example of a white wine that is oaked. Not all wines are oaked, you'll have to check which ones and do some research. Whether there would be enough to trigger your allergy is something you'll need to consult your doctor about.


First, you should ask your doctor at what level of the chemical Vanillin is considered dangerous in comparison to use of vanilla in industrial food products.

Second, there are many wines, good wines, red and white that are made without the use of oak (either as oak vats or oak chips)

They are made in stainless vats or concrete vats or lined terracota vats.

Ask your local wine store about un-oak wines.

  • Even with the original wording of the question, I don't see how this is an answer. The OP asked if he can drink oaked wines, not whether there are unoaked ones. – rumtscho Jun 18 '15 at 17:03
  • Well, maybe the OP did not know there were unoaked wines. – Max Jun 18 '15 at 17:10

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