Preventing a red wine headache
Question from Anthony: Why do some wines give me a headache and how can I avoid them?
In a nut shell: The culprits are histamines which are present in fermented and aged products. Unfortunately you’re probably deficient in the enzyme that breaks them down which results in an allergic reaction – headache, runny nose and flushed face. But there is a way you can prevent this allergic reaction and still drink wine… In a clam shell: Contrary to popular belief the cause of your wine headache is not sulphites. These suckers cause asthma and shortness of breath but not headaches (I’ve written a rather handy post about sulphites here). The cause is histamines which are found in foods that have been fermented or aged – tofu, aged meats, wine, beer, aged cheese. In people that lack the enzymes to break them down an allergic reaction occurs which causes a headache.
Red wine is worse than white wine since histamines are found in the skin of the grape and red wine spends more time in contact with its skin once crushed. The skin gives red wine its colour and tannin (that mouth drying feeling you get after a swig of Cabernet Sauvignon).
But here’s the good news. The remedy is simple. Take an anti-histamine one hour before you start drinking and you’ll be fine.
Image from http://www.piattellivineyards.com/story/home/redwine-headache