What does red wine have that causes headaches

Overview of Red Wine

Red wine, a type of alcoholic beverage, is made by fermenting grapes. It is usually enjoyed as part of a meal or sipped slowly as an aperitif. While there are many potential health benefits associated with red wine, it also contains some compounds that may lead to headaches. Let us take a look at the components in red wine that could be the root of your headache:

What is red wine?

Red wine is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented grapes. It is produced in many countries, including France, Italy, Spain, and the United States. The color of red wine is due to its increased contact with the skin and pips of the grape during fermentation.

Red wines are usually dry or semi-dry and range in flavor from light and fruity to heavy and complex. They have high levels of tannins, which are chemicals that cause a drying sensation in your mouth, as well as phenolic compounds like anthocyanins which give the wine its distinctive color. Red wines can also contain significant amounts of sugar or other sweetening agents like honey or port.

Historically, red wine has been enjoyed by humans for thousands of years. It has a wide variety of health benefits due to its high levels of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and disease-fighting polyphenols which all help protect against chronic illnesses such as heart disease, stroke and some types of cancer. However, it should be consumed in moderation as it contains alcohol which can lead to headaches if consumed in excessive amounts.

Different types of red wine

Red wine is typically made from dark-colored grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Syrah, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel. The resulting beverage may range in color from pale ruby or brick red to intensely dark purple. Red wines are generally fuller-bodied than white counterparts with an earthier flavor profile that is often described as fruity and spicy.

The alcohol content of red wine ranges from 11% to 15% or even higher in some cases. More importantly, red wines contain a variety of byproducts produced during the fermentation process including sulfur dioxide (SO2), acetaldehyde and tannins that can cause headaches for some people.

The flavors in red wine may vary depending on the grapes used and how they were treated during the winemaking process. Some common terms used to describe the taste of a certain type of red wine include:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon – Fruity, oaky and tannic with notes of cherry, cassis and tobacco
  • Syrah – Spicy with a smoky finish, showing notes of berry jam, black pepper and meaty aromas
  • Merlot – Rich and full bodied with subtle smoky flavors plus ripe berry fruit characteristics
  • Pinot Noir – Soft tannins produce fruit forward flavor characteristics of strawberry or cherry
  • Zinfandel – Ripe berry flavors mixed with layers of black pepper, cinnamon and licorice

Red Wine and Headaches

Many people associate red wine with headaches, but why does it happen? While alcohol can cause headaches in general, red wine specifically has some components that can contribute to worsening headaches. Here we will discuss the main components that can cause red wine to cause an increase in headaches and how to possibly reduce your risk of experiencing a headache when consuming red wine.

What causes red wine headaches?

Red wine is a common trigger for headaches, a condition known as “red wine headache” or “wine headache“. To understand what causes this phenomenon, one must consider several factors that may be contributing to the uncomfortable symptom. The most likely cause of red wine headaches is sulfites, which are compounds released by the fermentation process that act as preservatives. Other potential triggers include tannins (compounds found in grape skins and seeds), histamine, and other compounds released during alcohol production and aging.

The good news is that there are steps people can take to reduce their risk of having a red wine headache:

  • Choosing organic wines with a lower sulfite content can be helpful, as well as drinking wines with lower tannin content or avoiding aged wines altogether.
  • Similarly, if consuming white wines is an option for mitigating red wine headaches, opt for those varieties with shorter aging processes and lower amounts of additives like sulfur dioxide.
  • Additionally, drinking only one glass at a time can reduce fatigue from alcohol intake and might minimize an attack of red wine-induced headaches.

Different types of headaches caused by red wine

Red wine is known to be linked to headaches in many people, but it’s important to note that not all types of headache are directly caused by drinking the beverage. There could be other triggers, including everything from allergies and dehydration to specific ingredients in the wine itself. If red wine tends to give you occasional headaches, it’s a good idea to speak with your doctor about what other factors might be causing these issues.

Headaches caused by red wine can range from mild discomfort or pressure around your temples to more severe pain—in some cases lasting for a few days after drinking. The most common types of headaches associated with red wine are:

  1. Pressure-type migraine: This type of headache involves a feeling of intense pressure, especially around the forehead or temples. The pain can sometimes spread across the entire head or neck area, and is usually accompanied by sensitivity to light and sound.
  2. Hanging-over type headaches: This type involves a dull ache that typically occurs during or even hours after consuming alcohol. These types of headaches usually get worse as time passes and are usually accompanied by general body fatigue or malaise.
  3. Tension-type headache: This type normally manifests as a dull tightness on both sides of your head and behind the eyes. It can also cause additional pressure or sensations in other areas such as your neck and shoulders. These types of headaches are often related to stress levels, dehydration or poor posture.
  4. Dehydration headache: Red wine can also cause dehydration which may lead to more severe headaches like throbbing pains, nausea and extreme fatigue. It’s important to stay hydrated throughout the day following any alcoholic intake so that more serious complications don’t occur due to dehydration-related headaches.

Identifying what type of headache you experience when drinking red wine will help you determine how best to deal with it in the future, whether it’s through taking over-the counter medication such as ibuprofen, anchoring yourself in relaxation techniques such as controlled breathing exercises or using natural remedies like peppermint oil or ginger tea—speaking with your doctor is always recommended beforehand if you’re unsure which remedy is right for you!

How to prevent red wine headaches

Red wine headaches can be caused by several factors that contribute to the makeup of the wine. These include sulfites, tannins, histamines and phenolic compounds. Sulfites are added to red wines as a preservative. Tannins are plant polyphenols that cause bitterness when consumed in high concentrations. Histamines occur naturally in small amounts in red wines and beers and act as a vasodilator which is known to trigger headaches in some people. Phenolic compounds are created during fermentation of grapes and contain antioxidants like catechins which can also be vasodilators that trigger headaches in higher doses.

To help prevent the onset of a red wine headache, there are a few things you can do:

  1. Purchase low sulfite red wines (those containing less than 10 mg/liter).
  2. Let your wine breathe for at least 15 minutes before drinking it – this helps reduce tannin concentrations significantly.
  3. Drink water between glasses to stay hydrated – dehydration increases your risk for developing red wine headaches
  4. Take an antihistamine before drinking if you know you’re sensitive to histamines – this is especially important if you cannot find low sulphite wines or cannot allow your wine to breathe before consuming it.
  5. Limit consumption – one or two glasses per day are generally safe but more than three may increase your risk for developing red wine headaches
  6. Choose locally grown low yield grape varietals with lower tannin levels.

Red Wine and Health

Red wine has become a popular beverage of choice around the world. Unfortunately, many people report experiencing headaches after drinking it. It is believed that it is the sulphites and tannins in red wine that are the culprits.

Let’s look into the specifics of these two ingredients and how they can contribute to headaches:

The health benefits of red wine

Red wine is a popular beverage choice in many parts of the world and in recent years has gained notoriety for its potential health benefits. A growing body of research suggests that moderate consumption of red wine, especially cabernet sauvignon or pinot noir can be beneficial to health.

Many studies have found that red wine contains a compound known as resveratrol which has powerful antioxidant properties. Antioxidants help reduce oxidative damage in the body, which can lead to disease or aging. Resveratrol may also help protect against damage from toxins and free radicals, which can promote inflammation-related diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

Some have suggested that the polyphenols in red wine may be effective at lowering cholesterol levels and helping to prevent the formation of blood clots. Red wine also contains flavonoids which may act as anti-inflammatory agents. Additionally, regular consumption of red wine has been linked to improved cardiovascular health by reducing levels of “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and increasing “good” cholesterol (HDL).

However, although red wine does have some potential health benefits when consumed in moderation, it should not be seen as a cure or an alternative treatment for any medical condition—it should only be utilized as part of an overall healthy lifestyle and diet. Moreover, individuals who suffer from headaches triggered by red wines should consult with their doctor before drinking it again.

The risks of drinking too much red wine

Though modest amounts of red wine have shown potential health benefits, drinking excessively is harmful to the body. The risk of developing high blood pressure, liver disease, and cancer all increases when you consume too many alcoholic beverages, including red wine. In addition, drinking alcohol can increase your risk for developing a range of neurological illnesses such as anxiety and depression.

Excessive intake of red wine may trigger headaches in some individuals due to its potential effects on both migraine and tension headaches. Alcohol can cause vascular headaches by its direct effect on the vascular system as well as its role in decreasing anti-inflammatory responses – hence causing dilation of brain blood vessels. Another cause may be due to tyramine levels found in red wine: Histamine levels are known to lead to headaches in some individuals and red wines have higher levels compared with white wines or non-alcoholic drinks.

Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol can contribute to serious health issues and pose a danger even greater than short-term head pain alone. Moderate amounts are strongly recommended for enjoying the benefits that come from drinking red wine without damaging one’s health or safety – no more than two standard drinks a day for men (under 65) and no more than one standard drink a day for women (under 65) – according to Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015 – 2020 by US Department Agriculture & US Department Health & Human Services.


After evaluating the various factors involved, it is clear that the only culprit for headache caused by red wine is the histamines and tyramines present in the wine. We can conclude that the cause of the headaches is due to the presence of these two elements in the beverage. Although there are other factors that may contribute to headaches after consuming red wine, such as alcohol content, the presence of histamines and tyramines in the wine is the most likely cause.

Summary of Red Wine and Headaches

While it’s unclear exactly why red wine can be a trigger for headaches, there are various theories as to why this may be the case. The main culprits seem to be sulphites and histamine; both of which are common in wines. Certain compounds found in grapes, such as tannins and histamines, weaken the blood vessels leading to your head and can cause a migraine-type headache. Additionally, people are differently sensitised to these compounds so their effects will vary person-to-person.

The best way to keep red wine-induced headaches away is by moderating your consumption or finding types of red wine that don’t contain as many histamines or sulphites – organic wines seem to have fewer of these substances. Furthermore, paire your red wine with foods that contain antioxidants and strong flavors such as liver or gamey meats (which can help cancel out some of the compounds that may induce headaches) and always stay hydrated when drinking.

These precautions should be enough to mitigate any potential consequences, but if at any point you experience severe headaches after drinking red wine, please do consult a medical professional.

Summary of Red Wine and Health

Red wine is a popular alcoholic beverage around the world, but it does not always fit seamlessly into health routines as its alcohol content and other components can cause adverse reactions. Red wine contains substances such as tannins, sulfites and histamines that can trigger headaches, allergies and digestive issues for some consumers.

Tannins are natural compounds found in red wines and are responsible for their intense flavour, color and astringency. While tannins work to make red wines taste better, they also have an effect on our bodies in various ways – from the production of histamine to dehydration – which can cause headaches.

Sulfites are added to certain beverages including red wine during fermentation in order to prevent spoilage by preventing microbes from multiplying, increasing shelf life and ensuring consistent quality. Unfortunately some people are sensitive to sulfites and may suffer headaches or allergic reactions as a result if they consume too much of this preservative.

Lastly, some people have an intolerance to histamines found naturally in red wine which can lead to headaches due to a buildup of pressure on the brain vessels causing them become constricted. If you find that consuming certain types of red wines gives you headaches or other negative side effects it might be best either avoid these beverages altogether or limit your consumption.