Wine, like other fermented foods, may contain biogenic amines produced by lactic acid bacteria via amino acids decarboxylation. The most relevant amines from the toxicological standpoint are histamine and tyramine. The complexity of fermented substrates makes it difficult to suggest a priori how variables can modulate amine production. Lactobacillus hilgardii ISE 5211 was isolated from an Italian red wine. Besides producing lactate from malate, this strain is also able to convert arginine to ornithine and histidine to histamine. In the present investigation we studied the influence of malate, arginine and ethanol on histamine accumulation by L. hilgardii ISE 5211. Ethanol concentrations above 13% inhibit both histamine accumulation and bacterial growth; concentrations below 9% affect neither growth nor histamine production. However, an ethanol concentration of 11% allows a low but continuous accumulation of histamine to occur. Arginine also delays histamine accumulation, while malate appears to have no effect on histidine-histamine conversion.