What Is In Red Wine That Causes Headaches

Have you ever noticed that after enjoying a couple of glasses of red wine, you wake up the next day with a pounding headache? As a wine enthusiast myself, I’ve experienced this unfortunate side effect …

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Have you ever noticed that after enjoying a couple of glasses of red wine, you wake up the next day with a pounding headache? As a wine enthusiast myself, I’ve experienced this unfortunate side effect and have delved into the science behind it. Let’s explore what exactly it is in red wine that can cause those pesky headaches.

Tannins and Histamines

Red wine contains compounds known as tannins, which are naturally occurring substances found in the skin, seeds, and stems of grapes. While tannins contribute to the complexity and structure of red wine, they can also trigger headaches in some individuals. Additionally, histamines, which are a natural byproduct of the fermentation process, are found in higher levels in red wine compared to white wine. These histamines may also play a role in causing headaches for some people.


Another commonly discussed culprit behind red wine headaches is sulfites. While it’s true that sulfites are used as a preservative in winemaking and can cause allergic reactions in some people, they are unlikely to be the primary cause of headaches. In fact, dried fruits and many processed foods contain higher levels of sulfites than most red wines. Therefore, for the majority of individuals, sulfites are not the main headache trigger when it comes to red wine consumption.

Alcohol and Dehydration

It’s important to remember that alcohol itself is a diuretic, meaning it increases urine production and can lead to dehydration if not accompanied by adequate water intake. Dehydration is a known contributor to headaches, so it’s essential to stay hydrated while enjoying red wine or any alcoholic beverage.

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Individual Sensitivities

While the aforementioned components of red wine may contribute to headaches in some individuals, it’s crucial to recognize that each person’s body chemistry and tolerance levels are unique. Factors such as genetics, overall health, and even stress levels can influence how the body reacts to red wine and its components.

Personal Approach

As someone who has experienced wine-induced headaches, I’ve found that paying attention to the quality and sourcing of the red wine I consume has made a noticeable difference. Opting for higher quality, well-made red wines with minimal intervention in the winemaking process has lessened the likelihood of waking up with a headache the next day. Additionally, ensuring that I drink plenty of water alongside the red wine has helped mitigate any potential discomfort.


In conclusion, while the exact cause of red wine headaches may vary from person to person, it’s clear that a combination of tannins, histamines, alcohol, and individual sensitivities can contribute to this phenomenon. By being mindful of the red wines we choose to enjoy and maintaining proper hydration, we can continue to savor the complexities of red wine without the unwelcome headache the next day.

John has been a hobbyist winemaker for several years, with a few friends who are winery owners. He writes mostly about winemaking topics for newer home vintners.
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