Rob Moshein - Austin Wine Guy
April 02, 2007An article in the paper this morning got my attention. It discussed the headaches some people get from red wine. Now the usual scapegoat is sulfites in wine. SULFITES IN WINE DO NOT CAUSE HEADACHES!
If you are allergic to sulfites, you don't get a headache. The sulfite allergy is a hystemic reaction, just like bee stings or peanuts. You swell up, can't breathe and can die. Trust me, you would know if you were really allergic to sulfites. The allergy is so life threatening, that the FDA requires all products containing sulfites to say so on the label.
All wine contains sulfites. Nothing drives me more nuts than customers who insist that wine in Europe doesn't have them, while US wines HAVE sulfites. Rubbish! The only difference is EU labelling requirements versus the FDA. If you can eat bacon, raisins, or dried fruits without a headache, then you are NOT allergic to sulfites. Two strips of bacon have more sulfites than an entire 750ml bottle of wine!
Now, scientists doing research into the subject come down to two possible culprits: histamines (allergens) in the wine or as yet un traced chemicals from the oak used in wine barrels. The histamine argument doesn't hold much water as other foods contain higher levels of the histamines, certain shellfish and seafood for example, but nobody ever complains about "shrimp headaches".
The biggest problem are those people who say that wine in Europe doesn't bother them, but the same wine in the US gives them bad headaches, or that "organic wine" doesn't but non organic does. A lot of these folks, I think, fall into the "psychosomatic" zone, or it's all in their head, literally. They EXPECT to get a headache, so they do.
The last group, of course, drink a whole bottle by themselves, and get a headache. Well, duh. Don't blame that on the wine. That much alcohol at once will give anyone a headache.