September 16, 2020


Have you ever returned home after a delightful afternoon drinking with friends only to develop a painful wine headache, stuffy nose or odd skin rash?

Perhaps you thought it was merely a case of not drinking enough water, sitting in the sun for too long or just good old overindulging!

Matt Redin from Angove Organic Family Winemakers says your symptoms could be a result of a wine allergy – a sensitivity to the sulphites, histamines or glycoproteins present in conventionally produced wine.

September is Australian Organic Awareness Month, an annual event which shines a spotlight on the achievements of producers in the organic industry.


Spotlight On Organic

“Organic wine is a booming part of the industry and last year we were thrilled when Angove took out the top Business of the Year prize at the Australian Organic Awards for our commitment to environmental practices,” says Matt.

“This month we’re also releasing a new organic range of wines called Naturalis featuring a Shiraz, Cabernet, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Rose made exclusively for independent liquor outlets as well as on-premise venues. We have high hopes for the range as we get so many people saying they feel much better after drinking organic wine.

“The one big difference between organic and non-organic wines is the level of sulphur used. Organic wines must have concentrations of no more than 150ppm. This is much less than the standard non-organic wine which could have up to 300ppm. At Angove all of our organic wines have less than 100ppm sulphur and our non-organic wines also have lower than average sulphur concentrations.”

What Could Be Causing Your Wine Headache

Here’s what you should know:

Sulphur sensitivity

Sulfites are a preservative and are much more highly concentrated in white wine compared to red wine, which is preserved by natural tannins. They’re also generally found at higher levels in cask wine than bottled wine. Sulfites have been used since Roman times to preserve food flavour and colour, reduce spoilage, inhibit bacterial growth, stop fresh food from going off and increase shelf life. However, the sulfur dioxide gas (SO2) in sulfites is an irritant which can cause allergic reactions. The symptoms usually occur in those with underlying conditions such as asthma or hay fever.

Allergic symptoms include: wheezing, coughing and chest tightening.

Steps to minimise reactions: Try organic. New winemaking techniques and careful management of the fruit from vineyard to barrel, means much less sulphur dioxide needs to be added to the wine as a preservative. Always check the label to understand what exactly is in the wine and to make sure it is certified organic with the Australian Organic bud logo. With commercial varieties, avoid less acidic wines as these have higher sulphite levels. And select dry wines with lower sugar content as these require fewer sulphites.

Histamine sensitivity

Histamine is an organic nitrogenous compound which affects immune responses. It’s present in a variety of fermented products such as wine, aged cheeses and sauerkraut. Red wine has 20 to 200 per cent more histamine than white wine, and those who react to it may be deficient in the enzyme diamine oxidase. Some people have lower levels of diamine oxide, which means they have a reduced ability to lower the level of histamines in the body. They are therefore at increased risk of allergic symptoms.

Allergic symptoms include: headaches, rashes, itching, wheezing and abdominal pain.

Steps to minimise reactions: The only way to avoid the histamines altogether is to not drink red wine! However, if you can’t resist, go for lighter style reds as the darker and thicker the skin of the grape, the more histamines will be present. You could also take an anti-histamine an hour before drinking which should reduce the reaction. Drinking black tea may also have some histamine-reducing effect.

Glycoprotein sensitivity

Wine contains proteins and research suggests that glycoproteins — proteins coated with sugars produced naturally as grapes ferment — may also cause sensitivity. A recent study in the Journal of Proteome Research discovered 28 different glycoproteins – some of which were identified for the first time. An analysis revealed that some of these glycoproteins had very similar structures to other known allergens such as the proteins found in latex and ragweed.

Allergic symptoms: still being determined

Steps to minimise reactions: More research still needs to be done in this area to fully understand its effects.

Do you get a wine headache when you overindulge? Tell us in the comments below.

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  • I sometimes get a wine headache too that’s why I hardly ever drink anymore.


  • I can’t drink wine as makes me sick so I don’t have any friends do not understand when i say I can’t that it makes me sick. I also can’t drink port and I used to like port and lemonade and when I started getting migraines so I told my doctor and he send me to a specialist and he did tests and told me all the things I was allergic to and port also wine shell fish and other things so I don’t have anything that I was told to to have. It just not worth it, so go get tested.


  • Who knew? I don’t drink enough wine to develop a headache, but an interesting read.


  • Great article. It’s amazing how many people these days have food intolerances or allergies


  • I’ve never been a big drinker, so no, I don’t get headaches from wine. If I do drink I try to drink an equivalent amount of water too.


  • I only experienced this when i tried it first time.Now i am used to it.


  • What a great article. Will look out for these organic wines for future times. Thanks so much for posting this informative article.


  • This is me! Belly aches, headaches, blocked nose- for me it is the sulphites


  • Sometimes this happens to me too paired with lack of sleep

    • Indeed, lack of sleep & wine doesn’t make a good combi for me either


  • I only need 1 glass of red wine to give me a raging headache and dehydrate me, so I don’t touch it anymore (although it is fine when I use it in cooking!)


  • My husband suffers from wine headaches if he drink red wine. Might have to try organic to see if it makes any difference.


  • Yes I’ve had wine headaches but I suspect it was more because I was tired. When you drink a glass when tired it has such different effect on your body


  • I don’t really drink wine as I’m more of a cocktail girl so don’t get this problem!


  • I don’t have this problem, but there is a simple solution – don’t drink wine. Not meant judgementally, just that if something makes you ill it’s sensible to avoid it.


  • Only with red wine. White is fine.


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