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The Mystery of the Killer Red Wine Headache

Is it the wine or just the multiple bottles in my garbage?

First things first. What kind of wine are you drinking anyway? Don’t get me wrong I am not one to say that $2 chuck doesn’t have a place in this world, but it is just like buying off the dollar menu at your local fast food joint. There is a reason that that food or drink is the cheapest option, it could be made with all kinds of fillers and or chemicals. The same is true with wine.

“Poorly made wines tend to have more adulteration such as residual sugar, sulfur, fining agents or higher alcohol to make them taste better. If it comes from a box or has a critter on the label then its suspect for headache potential.” (Puckett, 2012)

Perhaps you are just dehydrated? It has long been noted that alcohol dehydrates the body. If the first thing you are drinking since that mornings coffee is a glass of wine, there is a real possibility that a nice glass of water is just what the doctor ordered in order to cure you of that pesky headache.

Let’s look at other suspects that are declared guilty before granted a fair trial.

Tannins: One easy experiment to see if tannins are the culprit is to drink a nice cup of black tea. Black tea is a perfect representation of tannins and if after drinking a cup of Lipton you have a headache then we have indeed found your demon.

Sulfites: Sulfites have been unfairly singled out as the culprit but in reality most white wines contain more sulfites then red wine which would lead one to believe they can’t possibly be the cause of the “red wine” headache. (Refer to a previous post I made on sulfites in wine for more details.)

Histamines: The most likely candidate for the headache is histamines that can be found in wine. If a food has been fermented or aged, the level of histamines can be higher. Some examples of foods that are high in histamines include Tuna and Sardines, cheeses such as Gouda and Parmesan, processed meats like salami, and even vegetables like Spinach and Avocados. (ImuPro, n.d.) An easy test to see if it is the histamines causing you issues is to take a Benadryl when you feel the headache approaching. If the headache goes away only to reappear in 6 hours, histamines are indeed the devil on your shoulder.

Another thing we can’t forget to look at is Alcohol. This is known to trigger migraines in people. Oh! And there is also yeast in wine that causes an allergic reaction, but chances are if you can eat a loaf of that magnificent Parmesan Pepper bread from the café down the street, you don’t suffer from a yeast allergy.

I think the important thing to point out is that a WINE headache is a real thing that has many suspects out there and cannot be blamed solely on one thing. It is also important to point out that by building a tolerance to many of the causes listed above you can actually rid yourself of the potential for the headache. Sounds like a good reason to have a second glass! Cheers.


Puckett, M. (2012, May 25). Wine Folly. Retrieved from ImuPro. (n.d.). Retrieved from

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