Is it a hangover or are you just allergic to wine?

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“Most times when people react to wine it’s an allergic reaction.”


These were the words of Jeff Aston, co-owner of Tractorless Vineyard, that caused me to rethink the fact that my ‘reaction’ had been due to the fact that I’d just rapidly consumed a whole bottle. Is there an answer to my panda-eyed, coyote ugly hangover? I wondered.

He explained, “Just as a banana holds the compound that make it taste like a banana, a grape produces a vast array of compounds, which is why you get such a range of wonderful flavours in wine. And although these compounds are full of antioxidants and beneficial nutrients, they are also closely related to histamines, which is why people often react to wine.”

But how do we know if we are allergic to a wine? According to Aston, common symptoms include headaches, blocked noses, runny noses, sneezing and migraines and they may manifest almost immediately or not until the next morning.

Now if you’re anything like me, this revelation spurs a thought process that goes something like this: that settles it, my post-party headaches weren’t self-inflicted at all. Poor me, I’m allergic to wine.

“Everyone blames sulphur but sulphur in wines is really low – in Australia the maximum legal limit of sulphur in a wine is 250 parts. The average dried apricot in a supermarket has around 600 parts. So it can be the sulphur but usually it’s the histamines – or the alcohol and you’re dehydrated.”

Damn. There it was, the alcohol. Nevertheless, Aston had a point, I often felt ‘hungover’ after only a glass or two, regretting the ‘two for $12’ bargain I’d so boisterously rejoiced over. So if the effect of wine on the body has to do with the wine itself as well as the volume of consumption, what shall we look for in a wine to avoid our bed-ridden state tomorrow? We asked the expert, Jeff Aston.

5 tips for avoiding a hangover according to a wine maker

1. Drink dry wines

The sweeter the wine, the higher the sugar content and the more sulphur it needs to preserve it. Adding juice or sweetness to a wine is often a tactic used to make a poorly produced wine taste better, says Aston. You’ll often get a worse hangover from a sweeter wine so it’s best to choose the dry varieties.

2. Buy from small, boutique wineries

Preservative free wines have a shelf life of about a month so unless you buy straight from the vineyards, the wines won’t be stable by the time they get to the table. Buying directly from the winery minimises the time spent in transport meaning the wines can be lower in preservatives.

3. Choose biodynamic

“Biodynamic grapes are easier to make and ferment because their nutrients are in balance for the yeast so less needs to be added to make it in balance,” says Aston. Biodynamic wines therefore tend to be much lower in sulphur and other additives and are generally richer in vitamins and nutrients.

4. Stay hydrated

Not only is alcohol a diuretic but it also suppresses the release of the hormone vasopressin, which is responsible for repurposes water released by the kidneys back into the body. With the absence of vasopressin, that water is marked for the bladder and excreted which leads to severe dehydration. Dehydration is probably the biggest contributing factor to a hangover so for every drink you have, have a glass of water.

5. Test a range of wines to see how you react

“Personally, I can’t drink wine from McLaren Vale, it blocks my sinus, so I drink cool climate wines instead,” says Aston. Take note of the wine you are drinking, where it is from, how it is produced and its grape variety to see if you have a problem with a certain type of wine.

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Georgia Pretty
Growing up on the Northern Beaches of Sydney with a love of the outdoors, Georgia has always led an active lifestyle. She has a passion for health, fitness and fashion, and loves to travel and try new things. She graduated from the University of NSW with a Bachelor of Media (PR and Advertising) and initially pursued the public relations field but was always drawn to journalism due to her love of reading and writing. For Georgia, life is about balance. She leads an active and fulfilled lifestyle and nourishes her mind and body but won't shy away from a taco and wine!