What Ingredients In Red Wine Cause A Headache?

Last Updated on August 1st, 2023

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Wine has been known to trigger headaches in certain individuals, particularly red wine. Alcohol causes the blood vessels in the brain to dilate, resulting in a headache. Red wine is noted to cause a migraine trigger.

Wines are made from a variety of grapes, preservatives, and other ingredients. As a result, good-quality wines are less likely to cause headaches.


What Ingredients In Red Wine Cause A Headache?

There are many theories as to why red wine causes headaches. Some attribute it to the way red wines are made. Red wines are made using the complete grape. The skins of the grape contain Histamine, a chemical compound that can cause a reaction and trigger a headache.

Tannins found in grape skins prompt the body to secrete serotonin. Higher levels of serotonin can also lead to headaches.

Sulfites, a compound used to preserve red wines, are considered by many to be another attributing factor for headaches. Although, this is still being debated, as some argue that sulfites simply cause breathing difficulties.

Congeners, chemicals that are produced during fermentation and aging of wine and give a dark color to the wine, are another factor. Higher levels of congeners cause the body to release stress hormones that can result in headaches.

Tyramine is an amino acid found in aged wines, and if it is not broken down inside the body, it can also lead to headaches. 

Close up of wine being poured into a wine glass in front of black background - What Ingredients In Red Wine Cause A Headache?

Why Is Red Wine More Likely To Give You A Headache Than White Wine?

Red wine uses the entire grape to produce the wine. As a result, the grape skins contain tannins that give the wines their distinctive taste and color. 

Unfortunately, red wines are also in contact with the grape for a long period, resulting in high tannin levels. This has long been considered the deciding factor for people to have headaches after drinking red wine.

White wine is made from the fruit of the grape, discarding the skin. Hence, white wine has low levels of tannin and is milder.


Are there any tips for avoiding a headache after drinking red wine?

It is best to first limit the intake of red wine. Following the instructions below can help prevent a headache. 

They are :


  • Drink plenty of water
  • Consume a caffeinated beverage
  • Avoid drinking on an empty stomach
  • Sip the wine slowly
  • Have a time interval before consuming the second glass
  • Do not mix wine with other alcoholic drinks
  • Lie down in a dark room
  • Consider taking an antihistamine before drinking wine


What Are Red Wines More Likely To Cause A Headache?

Red wines that have high levels of tannins are more likely to cause headaches. Most red wines are referred to as “full-bodied,” which indicates they are high in tannins. These are best avoided.


  • Bordeaux Red Wines 
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Nebbiolo
  • Malbec
  • Tannat
  • Shiraz Or Syrah
  • Tuscan Wines


Which Red Wine Varieties Are Less Likely To Cause A Headache?

Red wines get their tannins and color from the grape’s skin. So if the skin is thin, the level of tannin in the wine is low. There are many red wine varieties that can be enjoyed without having to worry about headaches. They are :


  • Pinot Noir
  • German Riesling
  • Tempranillo
  • Dolcetto
  • Frappato
  • Barbera
  • Gamay
  • Etna Rosso
  • Grenache
  • Schiava


These wines are light and refreshing with the same fruity taste of berries but with softer tannins.

Final Thoughts on Red Wine Ingredients That Cause a Headache?

In conclusion, drinking responsibly is the only way to avoid getting a headache. Experiment with what wines bring on headaches and always select good quality wines. Staying hydrated will also go a long way in preventing headaches.

At the end of the day, there is nothing more enjoyable than unwinding with a glass of wine. You should enjoy the experience without having to pay for it afterward.