Why Does Wine Give Headaches

Have you ever suffered from a splitting headache after savoring a glass of wine? You are not alone. Many individuals have pondered the reason why wine can be the cause of those throbbing temples. As …

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Have you ever suffered from a splitting headache after savoring a glass of wine? You are not alone. Many individuals have pondered the reason why wine can be the cause of those throbbing temples. As a wine lover and self-proclaimed sommelier, I have extensively researched the science behind this phenomenon to reveal the truth. Join me as we delve into the potential explanations for why wine can trigger headaches.

The Role of Histamines

One possible explanation for wine-induced headaches lies in the presence of histamines. Histamines are compounds that are naturally found in various foods and beverages, including wine. They are released by our immune system as part of an allergic response. When histamines are ingested, they can cause inflammation, leading to headaches in some individuals.

Interestingly, red wine tends to contain higher levels of histamines compared to white wine. This could explain why some people are more prone to experiencing headaches after drinking a glass of red wine compared to other types.

Sulfites and Headaches

Sulfites, which are used as a preservative in many wines, have long been associated with headaches. However, it’s important to note that only a small percentage of people are actually sensitive to sulfites. Those who do experience sensitivity may have a condition called sulfite intolerance.

If you suspect that sulfites are triggering your headaches, you may want to explore wines labeled as “sulfite-free” or “low-sulfite.” These options can help minimize any potential discomfort without sacrificing your passion for wine.

Tannins and their Impact

Let’s talk about tannins – those compounds that give wine its characteristic bitterness and astringency. Tannins are naturally present in grape skins, seeds, and stems, and they can also be extracted from oak barrels during the aging process.

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While tannins are generally harmless, they can cause headaches in some individuals, especially if consumed in excessive amounts. Red wines, which are typically higher in tannins compared to white wines, often get the blame for these headaches. However, it’s important to note that not everyone is equally sensitive to tannins, so the impact can vary from person to person.

Dehydration and Alcohol Content

Let’s not forget the dehydrating effect of alcohol. Drinking wine, especially in large quantities, can lead to dehydration, which is known to cause headaches. To avoid this, it’s essential to drink water alongside your wine and stay hydrated throughout the evening. Remember, moderation is key!

Moreover, the alcohol content of wine can also play a role in triggering headaches. Some people are more sensitive to alcohol, and even a small amount can result in a pounding headache the next morning. Listening to your body’s limits and consuming alcohol in moderation can help prevent this discomfort.


While the exact reasons why wine can give us headaches may vary from person to person, it’s clear that several factors come into play. Histamines, sulfites, tannins, dehydration, and alcohol content can all contribute to wine-induced headaches. If you find that you are frequently experiencing headaches after enjoying a glass of wine, it may be helpful to keep a journal and identify any patterns or triggers.

Remember, everyone’s tolerance and sensitivity levels are different. It’s crucial to listen to your body and consume wine in moderation. By understanding the potential causes of wine headaches, you can continue to appreciate the world of wine while minimizing any discomfort that may arise.

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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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