Aww…my aching head!

The dreaded red wine headache. It seems more and more people experience these mysterious headaches and we are not talking about having too much wine.Often people will receive an unwanted head-pounding after half a glass, most of the time with red wine. So much so that it is one of the top questions that I get asked on a daily basis. There is no magic bullet remedy for this annoyance because each individual may react differently to the many components and circumstances revolving around the consumption of wine.

In my experience, most people are sure the culprit is sulphites. SO2 or sulphur dioxide is used in wine making as an antioxidant and during the wine making process will form into sulphites. Organic or biodynamic farming practices will lower the sulphites levels but all wine has some naturally occurring sulphites. Dried fruit and processed food such as deli meat, for instance, contain much higher sulphites levels than wine. With that information in mind, sulphite intolerance or sensitivity will have a respiratory or skin based reaction and is not likely to result in headaches as most assume.

So what else is ruining your well-deserved glass of the good stuff?  Here are my top culprits and the ways you can enhance your enjoyment and avoid the wine flu!

Dehydration: Most people don’t drink enough water. Consider how much coffee you drink which will dehydrate you as well. Try having a glass or two of water before that glass of wine and have a little food in your belly.

Tyramines: This could be one of the major suspects related to RWH. Tyramines naturally occur when food breaks down through fermentation or spoilage. If you suffer headaches or migraines from aged cheeses, overripe and dried fruit, sauerkraut, soy, and many processed foods, you may have the same reaction from wine.

Tannin: Naturally occurring compound found in the skin, stems and seeds of grapes giving wine the dry and astringent sensation in the mouth. Tannins also play a role in preserving wine and giving healthy structure and stability to wine. Try wines with less tannin (usually thin skinned) like, Gamay (Beaujolais), Pinot Noir, Dolcetto and Tempranillo (Rioja). These wines will often be less extracted, think patiently brewed tea. All sorts of phenolic compounds can be leached from the grape matter, increasing the possibility of headaches if you’re sensitive.

If you are an allergy sufferer, taking a non-drowsy antihistamine an hour before having wine may help as wine does contain histamines, though they have not been 100% proven to cause headaches. (That might be my personal issue now that I think of it. I don’t get a headache from red wine but I almost always sneeze!) As always, check with your doctor for their professional recommendation before mixing any kind of medication with alcohol.

No cure all for everyone just yet, so do some experimenting with different wines and find what works for you.Our wine professionals are always happy to help to ask any questions you may have next time you’re in, we’ve always got some great suggestions to help you find the right wine for you! It is worth the effort after all!