We all have that one dear friend who rejects any glass of red wine because “it brings on a horrible headache.” Perhaps you are that friend. You desperately wish you could wine taste with the best of them, but, alas, you are always punished with a pounding head. Although it is generally a mystery why red wine headaches occur, there are a few good theories—and solutions—out there. Before you pass on that ten-year-old bottle of Burgundy, consider these factors:
1. Did you drink enough water today?
If you’re not well hydrated before, during, and after consuming alcohol, you will likely end up with a headache of some sort. Whether white or red, all alcohol has a drying effect, which means it forces your body to pull fluids from its reserves (and yes—that includes your head). Next time you’re enjoying wine with friends, do this: for every glass consumed, drink one glass of water. It’s easy to forget this simple advice, especially if you’re hanging a fabulous time. However, it could save you from quite a bit of unnecessary pain and all you have to do is keep a cool pitcher of H20 on hand.
2. Are you having a histamine reaction?
Sulfites have gotten a bad rap as of late, but let me tell you here and now: they are not evil. Unless you are specifically allergic to sulfites, don’t worry about consuming them (they help preserve wine and other foods). However, it is true that aged drinks like wine do produce histamines in the body—the same chemicals that bring on
a runny nose, itchy eyes, and throbbing temples. The same is true for aged meats, olives, and canned tuna. If you consume these items and experience a flare up in histamine reaction, pop a Claritin before you pop your next cork.
3. Are you drinking added sugar?
Let’s do a little math, shall we? Alcohol + Sugar = massive headache. We’ve all experienced the folly that comes after consuming a sugary bottle of wine spiked with “strawberry flavorings.” Cheap, saccharine wines should be avoided at all costs. Not only do they not taste good, they can make your Monday morning particularly hellish. Remember: these wines are filled with added sugar by winemakers in an effort to bump up the alcohol levels. More alcohol + more sugar = no thanks.
4. Consider the tannins
Despite what you might believe, tannins aren’t complicated. Derived
from the seeds and skins of wine grapes, tannins are simply the component of wine that dry out your mouth and tongue (think about the last time you ate a walnut). Not only do tannins add structure to wine, they up ageability, allowing that good bottle of Cab to mature with grace. There is no proof out there that more tannic wines cause headaches—in fact, tannins are high in good-for-you antioxidants—but there is a segment of the population who are more sensitive to tannins than others. If you think you might be among them, try this trick: Brew a pot of black tea twice as long as the instructions recommend. Sip the tea and see if you get a headache. If so, you may want to avoid or limit wines like Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, and Malbec and go for traditionally less tannic reds like Merlot, Grenache, and Zinfandel.
5. Is it “boutique” or mass produced?
Quality, high-caliber wine is much like quality, high-caliber fuel. It costs a bit more, but you know you are getting a pure product that won’t gunk up your engine. Small boutique wineries, especially, put an emphasis on crafting less output with greater flavor potential and quality, as opposed to a mass produced product filled with additives. Not all larger wineries are “bad,” but the larger you go, the more you should know about the operation. Wineries with great farming and winemaking standards are generally very transparent about their product. Always check the back of the label and see where your wine was made, how many cases were produced, and what grapes were used. No mention of varietals or growing region? Probably not a wine you’d want to drink.
Try these top-quality boutique reds:
LXV 2013 Crimson Jewel:
Sangiovese and Petite Sirah blend
Mapping and Directions: speedfind.com/LXVWine
Ecluse 2012 Zinfandel
Mapping and Directions: speedfind.com/eclusewines
Mapping and Directions: speedfind.com/Rangeland
Four Lanterns 2013 Shadow:
Mapping and Directions: speedfind.com/FourLanternsWinery
We heard from our Facebook friend, Mindy, that her Mom swears by taking two Tums 1/2 to 1 hour before drinking red wine to ward off headaches. But we think drinking quality wine is the best solution!
This blog post was written by Hayley Thomas, food and wine writer for SLO New Times and PasoRoblesWineries.net. She can be reached at [email protected]
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