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Burning Question: What Causes Red Wine Headaches?

Red wine headache, or RWH, has long been a subject of contention. Contrary to popular belief, it isn't caused by sulfites (both sweet white wines and dried fruits contain more sulfites than red wine), but rather compounds found in grape skins. Still, no single chemical has conclusively proven to be the culprit.

Some believe the cause is a group of chemicals, which include tyramine, histamine, and others. Red wine contains higher levels of these, because it's produced using the grape's skin and juice. Other scientists theorize that tannins, another byproduct of grape skins, could be at fault. Still others point to lipid compounds.

These potential culprits vary among red wines. If you aren't ready to give up red wine just yet, experts suggest trying a small glass of different brands and varietals — like less-tannic Burgundies, Riojas, and Pinot Noir — then noting whether they cause a headache, which would likely appear within 15 minutes.

Got a burning question? Join the Burning Question group in the YumSugar Community! It's your place to post the most pressing questions about the culinary world.

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LittleMzFit LittleMzFit 5 years
I enjoy mostly reds, but only have a problem with certain ones (as far as having a reaction to added chemicals/preservatives). Because there is no truth in labeling, you have to figure it out on your own. Organic might be more tolerable, until you can figure out which others you can enjoy without suffering.
Spectra Spectra 7 years
I don't really drink wine, so I've never had the pleasure/pain of a RWH. I stick with vodka, it never gives me a headache.
chiefdishwasher chiefdishwasher 7 years
Either..........just keep on drinking.........or take 3 advil when you are done.
michlny michlny 7 years
Weird...that's all I drink (cab.) and I've never gotten a headache.
weffie weffie 7 years
Mamasita that's interesting, I wonder if an organic wine would prevent the ache then?
mamasitamalita mamasitamalita 7 years
I went to a fancy wine tasting once and they explained it's likely not anything naturally-occurring in the wine, but rather its chemicals added to wine. wine is not required to have an ingredient list, and often vintners will add all sorts of chemicals to affect taste, preservation, etc. Its more likely, my guide explained, that these chemicals give you The Red Wine Headache.
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