Wine Talk

Snooth User: wineydoc

age old question--"side effects" of red wine

Original post by wineydoc, Nov 23, 2010.

there has always been controversy over what causes the headache of red wine.  sulfites, whatever.  they don't really have anything to do with it.  sulfites are everywhere, used to preserve most everything you eat.  i've heard that changing brands of wine can help.  i've also heard of taking antihistamines.  any other suggestions i can pass along to my patients?  thx.

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Reply by GregT, Dec 1, 2010.

winesydoc - I'm a little confused.  Doctor?  Patients?  Shouldn't YOU be telling US about these things?  If you really have patients, I hope you're not giving them advice you read on some layman wine forum!!  Although, I guess if you gave them a glass of good wine, they might feel a little better?

As far as fining agents - sometimes the people in the store will know or you can always call the winery.  Fining per se isn't necessarily a bad thing at all and has nothing to do with the quality of the wine.  There are several reasons to do it, partly cosmetic and partly for stabilization.  An uniltered and unfined wine can appear somewhat cloudy and people like to see a nice, clear purple. It also takes out some of the particles that will settle as sediment.  But my uneducated guess would be that an alergy to fining agents is pretty rare, although theoretically possible. Usually they're proteines but bentonite of course is clay, so there shouldn't be proteins there and if you're allergic to that, maybe wine fined with egg white is OK and vice versa.

But again, I think that's unlikely in either case simply because most wine, cheap or expensive, tends to be fined, which means that a wine that doesn't produce a reaction may have as much fining agent remaning as another.  The more important reason for doing it is stabilization.  The fining agent takes out the remaining yeast cells, dead or not, and some of the phenolics and other compounds that may be undesireable, as well as some things that you may actually prefer to leave in but are willing to live without if you can produce a more stable wine.

The  exceptions would be things like older Rioja and the like, since they're in barrel so long and racked frequently so they're naturally clear.  Other exceptions might include some of the producers who think it's more natural not to fine, although that's not a universal opinion.

I think the main reason people get headaches is alcohol. 

For further reading:

Reply by Richard Foxall, Dec 1, 2010.

Once again, GregT cuts to the chase:  The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in the wine, but in ourselves. Moderate your intake, drink water with your wine.  Common sense.  I would be interested to know what percentage of wines are now unfined, unfiltered or both--I am definitely seeing, or noticing, more wines that display on the label that they are unfined and unfiltered.  My friends who make some excellent wines in Santa Cruz rack once, but do not fine and filter--the wine is dark ruby, but not cloudy. Perhaps I will start a thread later on fining and filtering.  If someone has time now, be my guest.

Reply by BillWilliamson, Dec 1, 2010.

There has always been concern with wine causing headaches.  Leaving aside alcohol, which is an entirely different discussion, wine allergies occur in an estimated eight percent of people worldwide. Only one percent of those involve sulfites mainly caused by sulfur-containing substances that winemakers use to prevent spoilage.

For that one percent, you (and everyone else) should avoid mass-produced wines.  Generally when you make a lot of one type of wine you need to move wines around in the winery.  When wine is moved it is protected from bacteria by sulphur dioxide and some soluble sulphur is absorbed into the wine.  The more the wine is moved the more sulfites it picks up.

For the other seven percent scientists believe they have identified the allergen in wine that causes headaches, stuffy noses, skin rash and other allergy symptoms.  Our scientific colleagues suggest that glycoproteins - proteins coated with sugars produced naturally as grapes ferment - may be the culprit

An analysis of Chardonnay uncovered 28 glycoproteins, some identified for the first time and that many of the grape glycoproteins had structures similar to known allergens, including proteins that trigger allergic reactions to ragweed.  Hopefully, this should allow development of wine-making processes that minimize formation of these glycoproteins and may offer consumers low-allergenic wines.

Reply by napagirl68, Dec 1, 2010.

Excellent post, BillWilliamson.

Yes, I think we can all agree that too much alcohol will lead to a headache, aka a HANGOVER.  Yet there are many people out there who can tolerate a couple of drinks of anything but wine, usually red wine.  Again, look up congeners in red wine.. I think is similar to what you are saying, and happens during fermentation. 

I have noticed one thing.. the most cheap, vile wines (which I will NEVER drink again) can cause me a violent hangover after even just 2 modest glasses.  I also find there are specific wines (red and white) that I can have more than my fair share ;-) and feel terrific the next day.  Then others, again, that cause me to have that fuzzy, headache thing.  I do not consider this a true allergy, but rather an intolerance of sorts.  And, I have not been able to relate it to alcohol level (as stated), unless the % is totally false.

Reply by GregT, Dec 1, 2010.

NG - "the most cheap, vile wines (which I will NEVER drink again)"

As a real scientist, you did original research and for that we applaud you!

Reply by napagirl68, Dec 1, 2010.

LOL- GregT!  No, I wasn't hard up.. I think I recounted this story a year or so ago on here, but have a friend who always brings the CHEAPEST wines to my home for a dinner...  early on, before I "grew a pair", she brought one that I knew only cost her $2 (just guess which one).  She said it was amazing, and insisted on opening it.  I felt I HAD to be polite, and drink the wine.  I only had a glass or two, and stealthly opened a bottle of my own for the kitchen  (hidden).  Although I did not overdrink that eve, I had the WORST headache ever the next morning.

I now just thank her for her wine, put it in the kitchen, and tell her I already have the pairings down, then change the subject. If she insists, I open it, pour her some, and arrange hidden bottle that I pour myself (and others who may be present).  Survival, baby.  Yes, she is a cheap wino, but a great person in other ways.


Reply by Stephen Harvey, Dec 1, 2010.


if you use excessive S02 to "force ferment" can you get any specific toxins that may remain in the wine which could "enhance" hangovers.

I do know that this technique is used in many "cheap" wines

Reply by napagirl68, Dec 1, 2010.

Agreed, SH.  I am sure anything that forces fermentation can only produce more "toxins".

Reply by GregT, Dec 2, 2010.

early on, before I "grew a pair"


Oh man.  Now I've got a headache.

Had someone do the same to me recently.  Brought his own wine in case I didn't have anything he would like.  It's still sitting on the counter  - I couldn't bring myself to open it.

Reply by BillWilliamson, Dec 2, 2010.

You know there's nothing wrong with pure honesty.  Just tell these people that you drink (for instance) Bordeaux style Californian red wine in the $40 to $75 price range so that is what you will be serving and that is what you expect them to bring.  Even tell them you prefer X brand, its OK.  Real friends appreciate being told how they can make you happy and you can both enjoy the night drinking something that puts a smile on your dial.

Reply by Douglas G, Dec 2, 2010.

I read DMAE, after taking it for 6 weeks, will reduce hangovers and headaches in people that drink too much alchohol. Maybe it would have the same effect during moderate drinking of red wine. I take DMAE for other reasons (which is why I rememberd this), but never get a hangover or headache anymore on those few occasions when I do drink too much.  

A quick Goggle search for DMAE and alchohol did not turn up any data or trials to support this claim.  Maybe if you looked further there is something here.

Reply by schellbe, Dec 5, 2010.

Red wine is loaded with histmaine. Best to go easy in the fall allergy season.

I no longer mix red wine and cheese, due to itching of the mouth, a definite anaphylacitc reaction. Peccorino Reggiano and Italian Reds are especailly bad. My allergist told me to take an antihistamine before drinking reds and eating cheese, and to carry an epi-pen.

I can't comment on red wine headaches, as I don't get them. Nor have I ever has a hangover, so can't comment on that either.

Reply by Snozzled, Dec 5, 2010.

Any alcohol taken in large measures will dehydrate the body and in doing so affects the outer layer of the brain (the frontal cortex).

It is this area that will induce the headache most common after a heavy drinking session simply because in short, alcohol shrinks your brain! which is why you should drink plenty of water to rehydrate it and the body as well.

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