A Painless Day of Wine Tasting


Hydration=a happy day of tasting

I recently returned home from a month-long vacation in southern California.  Fantastic, it was.  Relaxing, it was not.  The weeks were packed with things to do, including visiting Temecula wine country for work and play.  When I invited a high school friend of mine out for an afternoon of wine tasting around the valley, I expected sunny weather and a pleasant experience.  What I did not expect was the mind-numbing headache I got once the afternoon was over.  It had been years since I’d last went wine tasting, so I figured I was just a little out of practice.  I popped some Advil and a bottle of water and was as good as new.  A couple of weeks later, I took my parents on a late afternoon, impromptu visit to Ponte to taste wine and again, I left with a head-splitter!  I was thrown for a loop; this had never happened to me before and I didn’t drink excessively, i.e. this was definitely not a hangover.  I got to thinking: why the sudden pain in the head?


No headaches here

So, what causes a wine headache?  Sulfites, right?  Wrong.  Sure, sulfites can cause headaches if you are allergic to them.  Wine will set it off since sulfites are found naturally in grapes, but so will things like pizza crust, canned tuna, shrimp and olives.  I’m not allergic to any of these things, so the sulfites were not to blame for my headache.  Research suggests that the culprits behind wine headaches may be histamine and tyramine, two other chemical substances that are found in wine.   Histamine dilates blood vessels and tyramine first constricts then dilates blood vessels.  Wine varietals vary greatly in the amount of histamine and tyramine they contain.  In general, red wines contain the most, followed by sparkling wines, followed by still white wines.  Considering the fact that I tasted mostly reds and sparklers, perhaps these two chemicals were behind my pain.  And, ok, I didn’t drink much water, which is never a good idea, especially on a hot day of winetasting.

So, what can we all do to avoid an unfortunate pounding head after a lovely day of tasting wine?

  1. Hydrate!  When the body consumes alcohol and sugar (which are both found in wine), it needs lots of water to help process them.  Without proper hydration, the body will pull the water it needs from other parts of the body, including the head.  Drink a glass of water before you drink wine and sip another glass or two while you’re wine tasting.  Don’t worry, Ponte has carafes of fresh water at the tasting counters…and it also has really nice bathrooms.
  2. Take an aspirin or two before you wine taste if you find yourself having minor headaches after a little wine.
  3. Be mindful of what you eat with wine. While food certainly helps absorb some of the alcohol, eating sugar could make a minor headache into a major one.  Remember, there is already sugar in wine which your body is trying to process, so when you add more sugar to it, you’re not helping your bod one bit.  Feel free to chow down on Ponte’s pita chips, however.  A meal at The Restaurant will also make anyone feel better.

–Erica Martinez


Posted by , August 13, 2014 No comments

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