Everyone hates hangovers. There's nothing redeeming about them. Seriously. They make my head throb like I'd been sitting inside a speaker at a Pearl Jam concert. My body always feels weak and the idea of eating food makes me want to lock myself in the closet for a week.
As you know, I love me some wine, but I don't overdo it. I will admit I am a lightweight though. Sadly, there are times even after ingesting the proper food to alcohol ratio, I wake up with our friend The Wine Headache. Come to think of it, last weekend's Chianti gave me the mother of all wine headaches. As much as I'd love to blame it on the fact that it was cheap wine (which it was), I don't think that was the problem. I most definitely have gotten headaches from excellent bottles of wine, even some which still stick out in my head as favorites (*cough* this ridiculously good Rioja *cough*).Since its seems ridiculously unfair to me that a favorite wine could have it out for my nervous system, I decided to learn more about what is actually going on here.
There seem to be many reasons why people think wines cause headaches. Some say its the oak barrels used in vinification (particularly American oak which is more commonly used in the US than Europe). Some blame the histamines found in grape skins - they say red wines will cause headaches more frequently as the wine has more contact with the skins than white. Others claim it's the sulfites, used as an antiseptic and stabilizer in vinification, that are the culprits. Sadly, there is no one scientific answer to this question which, yes, makes this headache within headache. Haha! - life has done it again!
Though my research proved useless in finding a cure for TWH, there are a few things you can take away. Sufferers of The Wine Headache should monitor what wines give them headaches, which ones don't, and drink accordingly. If you find red wine gives you headaches yet you love red wine, maybe try a Beaujolais( like this one ). Since these light bodied wines are vinified via carbonic maceration, the skins have less time to release evil headache-fuel into the wine. If you find oak might be affecting you, try sticking to European wines as they are more likely to use local oak over the problematic American Oak. If you want to avoid sulfites, organic wines are a good choice - they have regulations limiting the amount of sulfites that are added ( try this one ).
And please, if you find theres some trick to avoiding TWH, please let me know. I want them to go away!
An Exposé: The Wine Headache
- Reply by rxalongo, Feb 3, 2010.
This is a great overview. As a Doctor of Pharmacy, I thought this would be easier to find out but it is not as you have stated. I suffer from true migraines from certain wines, both red and white. Some, I cannot make it through a glass before the headache begins. My research has yielded the following to help. Sufferers can benefit from French and Italian wines. Their fermentation differs from that of US producers and is often regulated. Fermentation and aging must usually occur in the barrel, vs US where fermentation can occur in stainless steel vats using cheap american oak "tea bags".
I can guarantee a headache with most American Chard's but have never had one from a French Burgundy. Coincidence, most likely not. Additionally, Pinot Nior's are a good choice. SO - my suggestion - if you are prone to TWH, try a French or Italian wine. You may be pleasantly surprised.
If that fails an aspirin tablet or two taken about an hour before consumption can significantly help. This works on multiple pathways and may be an option for some. I would only do this occasionally, as the combination can irritate the stomach.
Thanks for your post.
- Reply by dirkwdeyoung, Feb 3, 2010.
It depends on the reason of course. Have a glass of water also at the table. Avoid industrial wines. Don't drink anything with alcohol in it right before you go to sleep. Like rxalongo mentioned, I mostly am drinking French and Italian wines and don't personally have this problem with any of them, but occasionally get these headaches from wines from other countries, I wonder what they are putting in there?
- Reply by napagirl68, Feb 4, 2010.
I agree 100% with dirkwdeyoung. Super hydrate with water.. avoid industrial wines.. I don't know what they put in them, but it is heinous! And drinking before bedtime disrupts sleep, even though you may fall asleep right away. You can wake at 3, 4 am.
I always thought the reds were the worst.. NOT. The sulfites necessary to preserve whites are higher, according to my research, and the heavy malolactic fermentations in whites can trigger headaches.
If I have any inkling that the next day may bring on a headache, or worse, a migraine, I pop two Advil before bed, and force-drink 2 tall glasses of water. The next day, I do a stress B complex vitamin and Emergen-C (a citrus, Vit C +electrolytes powder that you mix in water)... and protein in the morning (usually egg whites) and more water!
- Reply by Jim79, Feb 4, 2010.
I aggree with napagirl about the sulfites in whites being higher than red, so maybe not a factor. My thinking behind reds being worse is generally a higher alcohol level, and more concentration hence more osmotic potential for dehydration.
I think there's many reasons but as for a cure, maybe just a palate cleansing ale between wines? (or water if you're more sensible than me)
- Reply by dmcker, Feb 4, 2010.
I wonder if wine is all that much worse than any other form of alcohol. Has anyone talking here had the corresponding number of hard liquor drinks as for wine, but still had worse hangovers from the wine?
From my own personal experience I find the worst hangovers come from mixing various forms of alcohol. Especially when Sake (or Shaosing wine) is involved. Thus going from beer to sake to distilled liquors during the same night, and having the equivalent of a dozen drinks or more doing so, is far more likely to provide me with a hangover than two bottles of wine. I only tend to get bad hangovers from wine when I've had three bottles or more. At that point there is no difference for me between red and white, because I usually don't drink that much white or red on its own, but have probably started with white and finished with red. The sole exception might be a large champagne night, but strangely I need even more of that to enter hangover territory.
I will agree with akops about hangovers being a nasty corner of human experience, though. So I also take aspirin (after drinking but before sleeping) if I think one might be coming on, and also drink at least as much water as liquor or wine while consuming the alcohol. Guess I don't do that with beer, though, unless there are several shots involved. And strangely, on days when the hangover wins out, I find my body craving greasy food....
- Reply by zufrieden, Feb 5, 2010.
Excellent, informative blog. Though friends often complain of migraine headaches from light to moderate imbibing, I find that my own personal experience with hangovers is usually due to the fundamental cause; namely, overindulgence in alcohol. In fact, I get more headaches from MSG in oriental-style cooking (or junk food) than I do from the alleged culprit allergens in wine - assuming I avoid excess.