We are often asked by customers if we have any “sulfite free” wines because they believe sulfites cause headaches. These requests have prompted us to continually research sulfites in wine (see our sulfite blog). Our efforts consistently point to the same conclusion: doctors and laymen agree that sulfites, a naturally occurring organic compound found in all wines, do not cause headaches in any way, shape or form. Even producers who add more-than-average sulphur dioxide to their wine to preserve it (Yellowtail leads the pack) are innocent of causing your headache! Sulphur is added to dried fruit, like raisins. If you can eat dried fruit without any ill effects, then you can rest assured that sulphur is not causing your headaches.
So what does cause that wine headache?
Some people lack an enzyme in their intestine that metabolizes Histamine, an organic chemical element compound, which acts as a neurotransmitter and thus regulates physiological function.
Then there is Tyramine, a trace amino acid found in wine, cheese, smoked and cured meats and citrus fruits, which causes the blood pressure to rise and can result in a headache. If cheese, smoked meats and citrus don’t cause you headaches, then you can eliminate Tyramine from the list of culprits. So then, let’s turn to Histamine…
Terroir (the geographical and geological effects on the characteristics of a wine) can play a part in thepotential cause of your headache. Rock and limestone-heavy locations like the Burgundy region in France produce higher proteins in their wines which are believed to be a cause of higher histamines. Even the types of yeasts used in fermenting wine can factor in. Cheap wines are produced by adding sugar to grape juice to boost alcohol content. The downside of this addition is a cruder, less pure grade of alcohol which will definitely give you a hangover in the morning – or sooner even!
To keep the pleasures of wine in your life, there are preventative solutions to your dilemma:
- White wines like chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and sauternes are lowest in histamines. (Red wines have more histamine, while white wines usually have a higher amount of sulfites) Bordeaux whites far lower than Burgundy whites. However, please note, rieslings deliver the highest level of histamines of all white wines!
- Red wines are the highest in histamines and tyramines. California, Washington and Oregon are lower than European in like grape types. Red wines and apples contain Tannin, an organic compound that is extremely healthful to the cardio-vascular system, which is where the old saying ‘a glass of wine per day keeps the doctor away!’ (and yes, that’s totally how the saying goes.)
- Drink with food
- Ask your doctor about taking antihistamines, ibuprofen, aspirin and vitamin B6 with alcohol as each is believed to reduce headaches.
- Drink only when hydrated and in moderation.
Enjoy your headache-free wine experience!
-Frank Fedi, Staff
We deliver locally, to East Hampton, Wainscott, Sagaponack, Bridgehampton, Sag Harbor, and Montauk.