“Drinking the wine that pours from the heavenly divine
Handed from the Lord helping my soul to soar.”
This poetry by Ryan Daniels reminds me of Red Wine. Tis the season of love- it’s wedding season, and I just came from my friend’s wedding reception where they served red wine. I met up with a former classmate at the wedding- she mentioned whenever she has red wine, she gets a headache. We had a good laugh about it and passed it off- completely ignoring the idea that the wine could be behind it.
On the drive back home, I was thinking to myself– maybe, just maybe it isn’t a coincidence. Maybe red wine is the culprit behind my friend’s headaches- could she be allergic to it? Could there be something else going on? I decided to take a deeper dive into the science behind red wine and how this age-old drink is made.
Aside from grapes, patience, and passion, here are the top ingredients you may not be aware of while you swirl your glass.
- Potassium Sorbate & Potassium Met bisulfite
- Calcium Carbonate
- Sulfur Dioxide
- Grape Juice Concentrate
- Powdered Tannins (While Tannins are found in the actual skin of the grape and can add complexity and depth to wine, powdered tannins (oenological tannins) have been used during bottling to help add bitterness or balance to the wine early in the winemaking process. This helps boost grapes- specifically, the ones that are grown in warmer regions in the world.)
- Non-Vegan Materials
It’s amazing to think that all this stuff is sitting in your glass, right?
The most common question that a lot of people have is what is the difference between red wine and white wine. Well, they’re both liquids made from grapes. Jokes aside, the difference is in how they’re made and processed.
Going Back in Time…
The wine has played a starring role in religion. Red wine has been associated with blood for ages- used by the ancient Egyptians, Catholics, in the Greek cult of Dionysus and the Romans in Bacchanalia. Even Judaism utilizes red wine during Kiddush and Christianity during the Eucharist.
Often, people consuming red wine may attribute feeling poorly to a bad meal or the amount of consumption– blaming it on a ‘hangover.’ But a recurrence of headaches and similar unpleasant feelings after drinking red wine is something that shouldn’t be ignored- there is a reason behind it.
Alcohol and sugar combined and metabolized by the body can create a powerful headache (and they’re both present in red wine!). When your body is processing alcohol or sugar, it needs lots of water to help metabolize it properly. If you aren’t well hydrated, your body starts to pull the water it needs from the other parts of your body– causing a headache. But that’s not all. Just like the complexity of red wine, this problem has depth. Let’s break it down.
Non Alcoholic drink recipe: Non-Alcoholic Sangria with Cranberry Juice
There’s More Than Meets the Eye
First, let’s tackle sulfites. Most people seem to erroneously believe that sulfites in wine are the cause of headaches. This is just simply not true. Sulfites can cause an allergic reaction or asthmatic symptoms, but they don’t cause headaches. Sometimes, people drink red wine and don’t get a headache– they think that they didn’t get one because their wine didn’t have a label that said, ‘contains sulfites.’ This problem only occurs in the United States because the government requires vineyards to print this as sulfites can cause severe allergic reactions to people with sensitivities.
So, What’s the Cause of the headaches from red wine?
Let’s talk about tannins. At the beginning of the article, I mentioned powdered tannins, but that’s different. Tannins are naturally occurring compounds that are produced in the grape skin, seeds, and stems. You can identify tannins by how dry a wine tastes in your mouth, and for most people tannins will not cause a headache at all.
However, some people might have an allergy to tannins- you can test for this! Just brew a cup of black tea and let it steep five to ten minutes longer than what the package suggests. Black tea is naturally strong in tannins– over-steeping the tea will ensure they are all released into the water during brewing. Drink the tea- if you get a headache, you are sensitive to tannins! Avoiding red wine will solve your headache issue.
Modern Life & Red Wine
The health effects of wine are a popular subject these days. Wine contains ethanol which can also be found in beer and distilled spirits. By consuming red wine, you will feel short-term psychological and physiological effects (the entire reason to drink wine, but I digress). Different concentrations of alcohol are metabolized by the human body differently.
To practice safe, responsible consumption, opt for white wine over a red and drink modest amounts. If you’re a regular wine drinker and you find something that works- by all means, stick with it!
Do you have a general sensitivity to wine? You may have a better chance tolerating wines from California, Washington, and Oregon more than a European wine. Stay hydrated and stick with wines that fit you. However, if you are struggling to enjoy wine because of headaches entirely and you’ve tried to manage it on your own, it may be time to check in with a medical professional to rule out anything that could be contributing to this.
The Bottom Line
Drinking alcohol in excess is injurious to your health- moderation is key. So now you might be able to figure out why you might be getting headaches from red wine. If you watch your consumption level, stay hydrated, and drink in moderation, enjoy that glass of red wine!