The Best Wine to Avoid a Headache

Red wine causes headaches often enough that the condition has its own name: RWH or Red Wine Headache. But according to Yale Scientific Magazine, no one is sure why it happens. Several components of red wine might contribute to headaches, but some white wines contain these same ingredients. Yale Scientific Magazine cites research that indicates a high amine content in some wines might have something to do with it, but other theories exist as well.

White wines tend to cause fewer headaches than reds. (Image: bhofack2/iStock/Getty Images)

Wines Low in Histamines and Tyramines

Histamines and tyramines are amines, or organic compounds. According to a Wall Street Journal article, the first dilates blood vessels and the second constricts them. When both are present in the same wine, the potential exists for headaches. Red wines contain histamines far more often than white wines do. Chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and sauterne are low in tyramine.

Wines Low in Tannins

Another theory blames tannins for wine headaches. Tannins provide the dryness common to red wines. They also prompt the brain to release serotonin. Serotonin is a "happy" neurotransmitter, but too much of it can cause headaches. The dryer the wine, the more tannins it is likely to contain, so to avoid headaches, avoid red wines, especially very dry ones. White wines like chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, sauterne and pinot grigio are good choices.

Wines Low in Congeners

The National Headache Foundation cites congeners as the cause of wine-related headaches. Congeners are chemicals formed by the fermentation process and also take the blame for hangovers when you drink too much. They occur in dark wines and liquors more often than white wine and clear liquors.


Wines from different regions can have different levels of tannins, congeners, histamines and tyramines. For example, California wines are usually lower in tyromines. According to Frederick Freitag, a board member of the National Headache Foundation, people prone to wine headaches tend to do better with American wines, specifically those from California, Oregon and Washington. Although many people blame the sulfites commonly found in wines to preserve shelf life, Yale Scientific Magazine indicates that these do not cause headaches. A wine headache will usually hit within 15 minutes or so and shouldn't be confused with a hangover, which you'd feel the next day. Hangover headaches are the result of over-indulging.

Load Comments

Copyright © 2019 Leaf Group Ltd. Use of this web site constitutes acceptance of the LIVESTRONG.COM Terms of Use , Privacy Policy and Copyright Policy . The material appearing on LIVESTRONG.COM is for educational use only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. LIVESTRONG is a registered trademark of the LIVESTRONG Foundation. The LIVESTRONG Foundation and LIVESTRONG.COM do not endorse any of the products or services that are advertised on the web site. Moreover, we do not select every advertiser or advertisement that appears on the web site-many of the advertisements are served by third party advertising companies.