Why do I get headaches when I drink red wine

Red wine headaches (RWH) are a problem for many wine drinkers around the world, and we are not talking about the over indulging type here.

The interesting thing is that all the research undertaken still has not uncovered any one major reason for RWH.

One of the first things to remember when drinking wine is that it does dehydrate and this in itself may result in headaches. So first ensure that you drink at least a glass of water with every glass of red wine.

Now to get into some more contentious areas. I believe that there is often a marked difference between new world and old world wines. By this I mean American, Australian, New Zealand, South America compared to European.

The new world winemakers (in general) tend to over manufacture their wines. By this I mean introducing additives that will ensure stability to the wine, longevity, taste, balance etc. They are seeking to manufacture wines that are a perfect balance between the terroir and the laboratory. As a result you may well find elements that lead to red wine headaches. Such things as added sulphites, use of small oak (resulting in greater tannins), over extension of polyphenolic extraction in the wine making process. All of these are capable of leading to RWH through greater concentration of sulphites, tannins and histomines.

In Europe in general there seems to be a greater emphasis on terroir and letting the land and the environment speak for the wine. I have never experienced a RWH from an Italian wine for example. In general they minimise the addition of sulphites, usually utilse large oak barrels for maturation (botte) and adopt soft extraction techniques that result in the release of fewer polyphenolic elements in the wine.

So if your problem is RWH I suggest to stay clear of new world wines and look for European wines. The best solution is also to look for the Biologica certification on the back label.

Alan Featherby

The leading importer of Quality Italian wines in Australia