Wine is known to be heart-healthy, and part of the Mediterranean Diet; those who make it a regular habit, live longer. For some people, it’s not their beverage of choice. How can something so pleasurable give us pain the next day?

After reading an article from Food & Wine (“Why Does Wine Give You a Headache.”) By Science Historian, Nadia Berenstein, I contacted her and asked her this question:

“Do pesticides fit into the equation of headaches?” Her reply, “This is a good question, and I don’t know the answer.”

Favorite wine glasses

“There is a recent study that links neural symptoms to pesticide exposure among women orchard workers in South Africa, but farm workers would be exposed to much, much higher levels of pesticides and on a more constant basis than (non-farm-working) wine drinkers.

Emilio Moro 2-14

Great Spanish wine

There’s also an interesting study from 1999 that links pesticide use in vineyards with wine flavor. This study found that residues of pesticides and fungicides on grapes change the composition of the microbial colonies that turn the juice into wine (and the speed at which they do their fermenting) — with implications for how wine tastes.”

Her facts are interesting, and most of us would not have considered this information nor understand the science. Although when the grapes are sprayed with pesticides, I wonder if the workers in the fields wear protective clothing? What are the effects for the people who live nearby the vineyards?


I should have bought a case of this one! Rioja, Spain

My personal opinion—and I don’t have a PhD in this field, is… there are more pesticides in American wine. Of course, other countries use them, but not at the rate that is allowed in the United States.

For me, I have experimented with wines from California, Washington, and Oregon. Some are fine, and some are not. So I usually stick with Italian, French and good wines from Spain.

cork screws

Tools of the trade


“There is this idea out there that certain foods trigger migraines — chocolate, wine, and especially foods containing nitrates,” says Antonio Gonzalez. He also says, “If you suspect that nitrates are causing your migraines, you should try to avoid them.” Yet there is evidence that tannins cause the release of serotonin which is a “calming chemical.” But when there are high levels of serotonin, some people experience headaches, usually migraines.

Chianti Classico

Tuscan Chianti Classico

Most studies say it could be because of the gut, even the mouth. University of California San Diego Health Sciences notes, “The mouths of migraine sufferers harbor significantly more microbes with the ability to modify nitrates than people who do not get migraine headaches.”

All time favorite French wine – Pomerol wine made from Merlot grapes

When you pick up any wine bottle…just look at the label. All of them have “contains sulfites.” Sulfites are found in many products; cheese, meats, and fruits. But wine seems to get more attention. Sulfites are formed naturally in fermentation, but winemakers add more to protect spoilage, and sulfites are a recognized allergen. Of course it would be helpful of the wine producers would reveal more data on their wine label.

Save the corks

Save the corks

Also in the mix, new information blames histamines (present in bacterially fermented products such as wine, aged cheeses, and sauerkraut) for headaches. Let’s not forget sugar plays a factor as well. If you are eating and drinking some of these foods, wine might not trigger the headache.

How to avoid the headaches
  • have lighter bodied wines that have lower levels of tannin, dry wines low in sugar
  • drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration
  • buy organic wine
  • the day after: drink warm lemon water, or peppermint tea, or ginger tea
  • when all else fails, take an over the counter allergy pill
The good news…

Wine has a flavonoid called resveratrol (polyphenol), an antioxidant, which is on ‘our side’. Resveratrol is from the skin and seeds of the red grapes. Antioxidants help cholesterol, and reduces our LDL. It appears that red wind prevents heart attacks, aids the immune system, and possibly anti-cancer effects. Moderate wine drinkers have less belly fat than people who drink liquor. And delay disorders like Alzheimer’s.

My advice is to maintain a good diet (Mediterranean), regular exercise, and enjoy a glass of red wine with dinner. More wine does not mean better health benefits! Some studies revealed that wines in drier areas have less chemical spraying. Study the areas for drier zones instead of humid regions like Bordeaux and Champagne. The South of France has less fungicide residue.

Very good Italian

Good Italian wine and affordable

Wine is here to stay

Wine’s European history dates back to 4100BC in ancient Armenia. Although fermented rice and honey wine dates back 9,000 years from China. Wine will always be a part of our daily life; it’s here to stay. One day, there might be full disclosure on the label.

TIP:  Unwind with red wine…everything in moderation!

Louis Pasteur said, “Wine is the most healthful and most hygienic of beverages” — I think that says it all.

See my newest post on visiting the CAN BAS winery in Spain and Cava in Barcelona.