Decoding the Link Between Red Wine and Headaches: Insights from a Recent Study

According to a new study, drinking red wine can cause headaches due to antioxidants that interfere with the proper alcohol metabolism. This article examines this research on how red wine can give you headaches.

Can Red Wine Give You Headaches?

According to a meta-analysis on alcohol use disorders, red wine is the type of alcohol most likely to cause headaches in people who experience alcohol-triggered headaches. The study also said it can happen in 30 minutes or after one or two glasses of wine.

What Antioxidant is Responsible?

While trying to understand why red wine causes headaches, scientists examined the role of quercetin. This flavanol is a healthy antioxidant available in supplement form and can benefit heart and brain health.

However, your body converts the antioxidant into quercetin glucuronide, which blocks alcohol metabolism. The study’s authors say this can build up acetaldehyde levels in your system and lead to headaches, facial flushing, and nausea.

Is More Research Needed?

According to researchers, it’s still uncertain why some people are more susceptible. They said it could be that the enzymes of people suffering from red wine headaches are more easily restricted by quercetin, or they may be more easily affected by the acetaldehyde buildup.

As such, further research is needed to determine the effect of red wine on different individuals. USCF scientists also plan to test this theory on people drinking red wine in a small clinical trial funded by the Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation.

What Else Could Be Causing Your Headaches?

Historically, wine consumption is linked to numerous adverse effects, such as headaches, nasal congestion, and flushed skin. These reactions are commonly ascribed to allergies to components like tannins, histamines, and tyramine.

Alcohol also causes damage to your digestive, immune, cardiovascular, and central nervous systems.

How To Avoid Red Wine Headaches

You can reduce your risk of red wine headaches by drinking alternatives that contain less irritating elements. This includes wines with:

● Low-tannin content like Zinfandel

● Reduced histamine levels, such as Merlot or Pinot Noir

● Minimal or no sulfites, as common in biodynamic or organic options.

● Lower alcohol content

You should also drink lots of water and eat meals rich in protein and fiber, reducing your chances of a headache.


A recent study has shown that drinking red wine causes headaches due to its quercetin content. You can avoid this by choosing wines that don’t contain this antioxidant or increasing your protein and fiber intake.