Here’s what is causing your wine headache – ask Decanter

Are you feeling a bit sore behind the eyes after a good time last night? David Bird MW explains what is probably causing that wine headache, otherwise known as a hangover.

Image: a headache after drinking too much wine is partly due to the dehydrating effects of alcohol
Image: a headache after drinking too much wine is partly due to the dehydrating effects of alcohol

Ask Decanter: What gives me a wine headache?

Michael Marsiglio, from London, asks: Is it the sulphites in wine or the alcohol – or both – that gives you a headache the day after overindulging?

David Bird MW, for Decanter, replies:

It could be both – or neither! Both of these substances are toxins, so should be approached with caution. Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) is dangerous in large doses but the tiny amount in wines is invaluable, giving great protection against oxidation.

There are a few unfortunate people who are extremely sensitive to the allergic effect of SO2, hence the warning that appears on all wine labels.

Alcohol is also dangerous in large quantities but acts in a different way by dehydrating the cells in our bodies. This effect can be overcome by drinking plenty of water.

It is probable that the headache is caused by other low-level components like amino acids, polyphenols and other complex organic molecules that are an essential part of all wines.

David Bird MW is an analytical chemist, wine consultant and author of Understanding Wine Technology.

Translated by Sylvia Wu / 吴嘉溦

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