The Red Wine Headache Myth Busted Quick
No, it won’t. Sometimes the shortest answer is the best but given how long and widely this absurd myth continues to age, some immersion in detail might be called for. Red wine is generally regarded as being more intense and weighty compared to whites and roses though that might not always be the case. Now while getting drunk on spirits that high on sugar and alcohol content causes ‘morning after’ headache accompanying the hangover, some people have complained of getting a headache, halfway through sipping a glass of wine while in the act so to speak. And while the headache is genuine, the party often blamed isn’t guilty. Sulphites are invariably blamed for causing the infamous red wine headache and that’s just not true. Sulphur dioxide is a widely used preservative for wine. Some of it is produced during fermentation but more is needed, especially in hotter countries like ours, for the wine to retain its quality and flavour.
Sulphites are a necessary albeit controversial preservative, also burdened with the unfair charge of causing the red wine headache.
Red wine in fact has less suphite than many other food and beverage items – around 50 to 300 parts per million. This is relatively a negligible amount and sufficiently proves that ‘suplhites causing headaches’ is a myth. The headache though is real and is most likely caused due to an allergy. Ditto with the tannins which are just as likely to cause a headache in someone who get it from drinking black tea. A final and more believable theory pertains to histamine and tryamine, two amino acids that occur in the course of fermentation and some people’s constitution is unable to break it down, triggering the blood pressure, causing a headache. So yes, it’s the dreaded ‘it’s not the wine, it’s you’ line though given the diverse and fascinating flavours of wine and depth of style, one should taste through a range of light to medium bodied reds with lower levels of said amino acids, to find a bunch that won’t trigger a headache. Those headache proof wines are definitely out there and worth the exploration. Enough with the gripe over sulphites though!