Biogenic amines in wine may impair sensory wine quality and cause adverse health effects in susceptible individuals. In this study, histamine and other biogenic amines were determined by HPLC after amine derivatisation to dansyl chloride conjugates in 100 selected high-quality red wines made from seven different cultivars. Amine levels varied considerably between different wines. The most abundant amines were putrescine (median = 19.4 mg l(-1), range = 2.9-122), histamine (7.2 mg l(-1), 0.5-26.9), and tyramine (3.5 mg l(-1), 1.1-10.7), whereas lower levels were found for isoamylamine (median = 0.25 mg l(-1)), phenylethylamine (0.16 mg l(-1)), cadaverine (0.58 mg l(-1)), spermidine (1.8 mg l(-1)) and tryptamine (0.06 mg l(-1)). Positive correlations were observed between isoamylamine and phenylethylamine, and between histamine, putrescine and tyramine levels. Amine concentrations were similar in all wine cultivars except Pinot noir and St. Laurent wines, which showed significantly higher tryptamine and cadaverine levels. The results indicate that levels of histamine and other biogenic amines may vary considerably between red wines independent of grape variety and that high amounts can also be found in high-rated wines. Adopting a legal histamine threshold level of 10 mg l(-1) in the European Union, as formerly introduced in other countries, would have excluded 34% of the investigated wines from the market.