Wine Hangover – What Causes Them and How to Avoid Them

Maybe you’re reading this from a google search because you’ve got a ripping morning headache after a night of drinking some wine and looking for a cure. Honestly nothing can cure a hangover aside from time or maybe a, “hair of the dog.” There are things that can make you feel better, but not your whole self.

Ok, so this isn’t going to be an article backed with scientific research, but an article from an industry professional who has spent an entire career in wine, and who also happens to be a health nut.

Many believe that sulfites and red wine is what causes their hangovers, I’m here to say that’s not true. While there are wineries who do add extra sulphur to their wines during production, it’s not what causes your head to pound. Dried fruits actually contain way more sulfites than wine. Red wines do have tannins and others blame those for their bothersome morning after feel. Simply #fakenews.

I’m allergic to sulphur and many people are as well. I used to think I was allergic to wine (and the histamines) because in college a few friends would get that jug of Carlo Rossi and I’d have a few glasses and notice my face would get red. In the morning I’d feel like my head was in a vice grip. I stopped drinking wine until I found myself managing a Steakhouse several years later and a colleague invited me to a tasting. He told me I wasn’t allergic to wine, rather the cheap California wines were to blame. I still took it slow and through my years of study (and drinking), learned the reasons why people get wine hangovers.

The #1 culprit to a wine hangover is sugar. When selecting a wine, look at the alcohol percentage. Generally speaking, the higher the percentage, the more sugar in the wine. How? Sugar is what converts to alcohol in the winemaking process. While I will say there are certain regions in the world that are quite warm for grape growing (Rhône Valley and Napa Valley for example), so alcohol percentages are going to be naturally higher, there are wineries that push the limits by adding sugar during the winemaking process. A process known as chaptalization. The result they are looking for? Wines to appeal to the American palate because many Americans have diets filled with sugar.

The #2 culprit to a wine hangover are other additives. Yes, it’s true and upsetting. I’m talking about chemicals. Mass produced wineries are typically at blame for adding chemicals, and even farming with chemicals. An example of a chemical additive to a wine? Oak essence. Yes, some wineries will cut corners and use this chemical instead of aging the wine in actual oak. Oak barrels cost more money than stainless steel or cement vats. If you are someone so concerned with eating healthy and buying organic, wouldn’t you want the same with your wine? You may ask yourself, “well how do I know what is mass produced?” Generally speaking, if you are buying wine in a chain grocery store, convenience store, or gas station, those are mass produced. Even those new companies you see on Facebook and Pinterest such as Direct Cellars and Vinebox, those are mass produced wines and you should avoid joining their clubs. Those are the wines that will cause you to not want to get out of bed the next day. I can’t stress this enough, buy your wines from an independent retailer, local grocer, or specialized wine club. Even Whole Foods carries some wonderful, small production wines. If you MUST buy in a grocery store, avoid California (and I live in California!). Most of those brands are owned by liquor companies or are owned by publicly traded companies, and they are more concerned about the bottom line rather than putting out a premium product. Seek out imports and look at the alcohol % on the label. Stick to 12.5 – 13.5% ABV.

So what do I drink? I love pretty much all varietals and generally have 1-2 glasses/day and perhaps more on the weekends (ha!). I never get a hangover, but I also don’t seek out to get drunk. I can actually drink an entire bottle myself and not feel like I need a bottle of aspirin in the morning. I drink primarily imports, wines that are 12.5 – 13.5%. Wines that are produced by families with integrity. Wines that some industry pros consider “natural.” Wines that you can’t find in a grocery store, wines that you talk to the independent retailer about to gain more insight on the producer. Wines with a respected importer. The wine doesn’t have to say it’s organic on the label, matter of fact many European producers don’t pay to be certified organic. The smaller producers have been farming naturally for generations. And interestingly enough, these boutique wineries’ wines always taste better and I believe because it’s a labor of love. Anytime I have two glasses of some monster Napa Chard or Cab at 15.5 + percent, I feel awful in the morning. I can’t do it. Maybe I’m a lightweight or maybe I just know what’s better for me.

On an ending note, maybe you saw this article that came out with a massive list of wineries that contain the poisonous arsenic.  Wine is food. Treat it the same way as you would if you watch what you eat. Shop independent retailers, exclusive wine clubs, and talk to the owners.

3 thoughts on “Wine Hangover – What Causes Them and How to Avoid Them

  1. I learned 40 years ago how to prevent any hangover: Don’t drink enough to get drunk. It works. Believe me. LOL

    Liked by 1 person

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