Can Wine Cause Migraines

As someone who loves wine, I have frequently considered the timeless question: Can wine trigger migraines? Many of us have felt the unpleasant pounding in our heads after enjoying a glass or two of our …

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As someone who loves wine, I have frequently considered the timeless question: Can wine trigger migraines? Many of us have felt the unpleasant pounding in our heads after enjoying a glass or two of our preferred wine. Thus, let us delve into this subject and uncover any potential link between wine and migraines.

The Culprit: Sulfites and Tannins

One of the primary suspects often blamed for triggering migraines in wine is the presence of sulfites. These sulfur-based compounds are used as a preservative in winemaking and can occur naturally in the fermentation process. While not everyone is sensitive to sulfites, those who are may experience headaches or migraines after consuming wine containing high levels of these compounds. Additionally, tannins, which are naturally occurring polyphenols found in the skins, seeds, and stems of grapes, have also been linked to migraines in some individuals.

Red vs. White: The Debate

There’s an ongoing debate in the wine community about whether red or white wine is more likely to trigger migraines. Some believe that red wine, due to its higher tannin content, is more likely to cause headaches, while others argue that the sulfite levels in white wine make it the more probable culprit. In my own experience, I’ve found that both reds and whites have triggered migraines for me at different times, making it difficult to pinpoint a specific type of wine as the sole offender.

My Personal Experience

After conducting my own self-experimentation and diligently keeping track of my wine consumption and subsequent migraines, I’ve come to the conclusion that moderation is key. Enjoying a single glass of wine with a meal seems to have little to no effect on my head, but indulging in multiple glasses or drinking on an empty stomach has often led to regrettable migraine episodes. Additionally, opting for wines labeled as “low sulfite” has made a noticeable difference in my tolerance.

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Seeking Alternative Solutions

For those who truly enjoy wine but struggle with migraine triggers, there are alternative options to explore. Some individuals find relief by choosing organic or biodynamic wines, which typically have lower sulfite levels. Others turn to lighter-bodied wines or varieties with lower tannin concentrations, such as Pinot Noir or Sauvignon Blanc, in hopes of avoiding migraine onset.


So, can wine cause migraines? The answer, as is often the case with wine, is not entirely black and white. While sulfites and tannins may play a role in triggering migraines for some individuals, it’s crucial to remember that each person’s tolerance and sensitivity varies. Through mindful consumption and exploration of alternative wine options, it’s possible for migraine sufferers to continue enjoying their beloved beverage without constantly fearing the onset of a headache. As for me, I’ll be savoring my next glass of wine with a newfound sense of awareness and appreciation for the complex interplay of factors that contribute to the experience.

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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