What Is In Wine That Gives You A Headache

Have you ever had a throbbing headache after drinking a glass or two of wine? You’re definitely not alone. Plenty of people experience wine-related headaches and it can really put a damper on your evening. …

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Have you ever had a throbbing headache after drinking a glass or two of wine? You’re definitely not alone. Plenty of people experience wine-related headaches and it can really put a damper on your evening. As someone who loves wine, I’ve often wondered what specifically in wine could be causing this discomfort. That’s why I delved into the topic and am excited to share my discoveries with you.

The Culprit: Histamines

One of the main culprits behind wine headaches is histamines. Histamines are natural compounds found in various foods and beverages, including wine. They are produced by the body as part of the immune response to allergens. In wine, histamines are primarily found in the grape skins, stems, and seeds, which are in contact with the grape juice during fermentation.

For individuals who are sensitive to histamines or have a histamine intolerance, consuming histamine-rich foods and drinks like wine can lead to headaches. The body’s reaction to histamines can cause blood vessels to dilate, leading to increased blood flow and pressure in the head, resulting in that dreaded wine headache.

Sulfites: Friend or Foe?

Sulfites often get a bad rap when it comes to wine headaches. While it is true that sulfites can cause allergic reactions in some people, they are generally not the main cause of wine-induced headaches. In fact, sulfites are naturally present in wine and act as a preservative, preventing spoilage and maintaining freshness.

Most people can tolerate the levels of sulfites present in wine without any adverse effects. However, for individuals who have asthma or sulfite sensitivity, the presence of sulfites in wine can trigger headaches, breathing difficulties, or other allergic reactions. It’s important to note that red wines generally contain higher levels of sulfites compared to white wines.

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The Alcohol Factor

It’s no secret that alcohol can cause headaches, especially when consumed in excess. When we consume alcohol, our bodies break it down into acetaldehyde, a toxic compound. Acetaldehyde can cause blood vessels to widen and can also trigger inflammation in the body, including the blood vessels in the head.

Additionally, alcohol can lead to dehydration, which is another common cause of headaches. Wine, like any alcoholic beverage, has diuretic properties, meaning it increases urine production and can contribute to fluid loss. If you’re not properly hydrated while enjoying a glass of wine, you may be more susceptible to a headache the next day.

Personal Tips and Recommendations

While it’s difficult to completely avoid wine-induced headaches, there are a few things you can try to minimize their occurrence:

  1. Hydrate: Make sure to drink plenty of water alongside your wine to stay hydrated and counteract the dehydrating effects of alcohol.
  2. Choose Low-Histamine Wines: Wines that undergo minimal skin contact during production, such as white wines, tend to have lower histamine levels. Opting for these types of wines may help reduce the risk of a headache.
  3. Know Your Triggers: Pay attention to your body and identify any specific wine types or ingredients that consistently trigger headaches for you. Avoiding these triggers can help prevent discomfort.
  4. Enjoy in Moderation: As with any alcoholic beverage, moderation is key. Consuming wine in excess is more likely to lead to headaches and other unpleasant side effects.


While the exact cause of wine-induced headaches can vary from person to person, histamines, sulfites, and alcohol are often the primary culprits. Understanding your body’s reaction to these components and making informed choices can help you enjoy your wine without suffering the next day. Remember, the key is moderation and listening to your body’s signals. Cheers to headache-free wine enjoyment!

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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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