We’ve all been there – one bottle of wine suddenly turned into two, maybe even three bottles of wine and now you’re nursing the worst wine headache of your life. It feels like a killer migraine, and you only get these when you drink wine! But why is that? Well, we did the research so you don’t have to, and here are the reasons why wine hangovers punish us so badly the next day!


What Causes a Wine Headache?


While drinking any alcohol can give you a hangover, wine seems to give you an extra jolt to your headache. Well, it turns out that there are a few reasons why a wine headache seems so much worse than any other!


Tannins in wine cause wine headaches

This is likely the top culprit you’ve heard is behind wine headaches – and for some, it is. Tannins are used in wine production for the purposes of creating dryness, bitterness and fullness. They are naturally occurring compounds from grapes, and are used according to the winemakers wish-list. For those who aren’t affected by the tannin content of their wine, tannins are a great source for anti-oxidants.

The chemicals formation of tannins, namely the inclusion of phenolic compounds, have been shown to cause vasorelaxation, a precursor for suffering from a migraine. Vasorelaxation is the reduction of tension in vascular walls, meaning your blood vessels relax, and is increased by the consumption of high-tannin wines. Drinking while stressed will also create the effects of vasorelaxation, due to the high tension you were feeling before drinking.

Pay attention to what you’re drinking, and if high tannin wines give you headaches, switch to ones with a low tannin content.



Histamines in wine can cause headaches

Histamines are naturally released when we have an allergic reaction to something, which can result in symptoms such as watery eyes, nasal congestion, excessive sneezing, hives, etc.

Now, you might be asking yourself, “Am I allergic to wine?” well, probably not, but here’s how allergies and wine are related: food and drinks that have been aged, such as an older red wine, can commonly release histamines in people’s bodies and simulate the effects of an allergic reaction. When drinking wine, the most common reaction is a “histamine headache”. Any anti-histamine will counter the effects of this headache.

JustWine Fact
Red wine tends to have higher histamine content than white wine. Which is why the “red wine headache” is very common.




Tyramine could be the cause of your wine headache

Tyramine is an amino acid which forms naturally during the fermentation process and is commonly found in wine and cheese. (And interestingly enough, we tend to pair those two things together – double the headache!) The reason it makes the list for adding to wine hangovers is that while it is a natural by-product, it can be difficult for people’s bodies to break down. Tyramine can have a negative effect on people’s blood pressure – resulting in nasty migraines.

A wine and cheese combo, due to the double dosage of tyramine, can often work its way into a hangover the next morning. If you find yourself battling hangovers often the night after drinking wine (especially red wine), then it would be wise to avoid wine and cheese nights (or stick to wine and crackers).



Your wine headache could be caused by the amount of sugar in your wine

The combination of alcohol and sugar is a prime culprit for wine headaches, as both require high amounts of water in order to process properly. If you go into the evening of drinking dehydrated or allow yourself to become dehydrated while drinking, a wine headache is a likely result. While dehydrated, your body will start to pull water from other areas of your body in order to process the alcohol and sugar – including from your brain. The emphasis here, if you haven’t gathered yet, is to drink lots of water!

Be mindful of the amount of sugar in the wines you are drinking regularly, click here to learn more about how much sugar is in your wine.




How Can You Prevent Wine Headaches?

The best way to avoid a wine headache is to take preventative measures. Next time you’re going to indulge in a bottle of wine, try out these simple hacks to prevent that awful headache after drinking wine.

The best way to avoid a wine headache is to drink a glass of water for every glass of wine you drink.

A 1:1 ratio will keep you hydrated and help you avoid a serious wine headache– or worse, a wine hangover.

Try taking allergy medication before drinking wine to avoid a wine headache.

Pop an antihistamine, such as Claritin or Reactine, before drinking wine. This will help protect you from the histamines in wine.

To avoid a wine headache, choose wines that are low in tannins.

Try to avoid cheaper wines, which often add sugar during their shorter fermentation processes. Avoiding foods high in sugar will also help.

Take a painkiller before drinking wine to prevent a headache

Take an ibuprofen or pain killer, like an Advil or Tylenol, before going to bed. Counteracting the headache *before it arrives* has been shown to work in some people.





How Do You Get Rid of a Wine Hangover?

Getting rid of a wine hangover is no easy task, but it’s possible! Drinking water, eating eggs or taking a nap are some of the methods, but we can’t do them for you – here’s our Recovery Guide for Wine Hangovers!


Looking for more wine content? Check out these articles:

The Ultimate Guide to Pairing Wine With Any Type of Food
10 Non-Alcoholic Wines That Actually Taste like Wine but Won’t Give You a Hangover
Red Wine vs. White Wine — What’s The Difference?