If you get headaches after drinking wine, you may have heard that it is the sulfites in wine that cause this trouble. But that may not be the case.
Sulfites occur naturally in all wines. They can cause allergy and asthma symptoms—but they do not typically trigger headaches.
However, other ingredients in wine may induce headaches in sensitive people…
Grape skins contain compounds called histamines that dilate blood vessels and can cause headaches. The longer grapes ferment during the wine-making process, the greater the histamine ?content. Red wines affect histamine-sensitive people more than white wines and rosés because of their long fermentation time.
Tyramine occurs naturally in certain wines, especially Chianti and Riesling. The substance increases blood pressure and sometimes triggers headaches.
You may also have heard that cheap wine causes headaches—but it is not true. Inexpensive red wines actually may cause fewer headaches than higher-priced varieties. Reason: Like many white wines, inexpensive reds typically are aged in ?nonreactive stainless steel barrels. Wines in oak barrels may pull headache-inducing substances from the containers.
Who gets headaches from which wines depends very much on the individual. Some people are especially sensitive to wines from certain regions because of substances absorbed from the soil. A person may react to a California varietal but not a French wine made from the same grape—or vice versa.
So pay attention to what you’re drinking and where it was produced. Just because one wine gives you a headache doesn’t mean they all will. Once you develop your personal list of “safe” wines, you can relax and enjoy.