Why does white wine affect me more than red wine?

White Wine Riedel Glass The “red wine headache” is a common issue. But what about when the bottles are switched and it’s actually the white wine that is going straight to your head and giving you a nasty “wine flu” the next day?

There are various theories as to why this occurs to some people. After a fair bit of research and a few bottles of white consumed (a girl’s got to do her research after all!) I have narrowed it down roughly to the most highly talked about theory – Sulphites.

On virtually every bottle of wine you’ll notice the words, ‘Contains Sulphites’ on the back label. Sulphites = Sulphur Dioxide = SO2 = is the preservative used in winemaking to keep the freshness and work as an antioxidant to remove unwanted yeasts & bacteria.

Sulphites are naturally found on grapes however small amounts of sulphur are added prior to fermentation. Red wines generally have lower amounts of sulphites than whites. Therefore this could be the possible cause of the white wine blues.

Another popular theory is the way we drink white wine. It is said that we drink white wine at a much faster rate than red which means we end up consuming more. Just think about it, it’s summer, it’s hot and you want a wine to quench your thirst.

White Wine Contains Sulphites
So maybe the most important thing I can share with you is how you can try to lessen the damage of having a glass or two of white wine:

  • Drink water in between glasses of wine! I know this is an over preached rule but honestly it does work and it will help at the time and the next day.
  • Asprin before bed, it’s one of those things you brush off at the time.. But just do it and live with no regrets.
  • Eat! I cringe at the thought of my uni days living by the ‘eating is cheating’ rule when it came to drinking. Thank goodness I now enjoy my food way too much for that sort of stupidity.
  • Avoid sugary foods when drinking! I know I know… I too love indulging in glorious cupcakes and candies with my odd glass of wine or two. But guess what? Sugar and alcohol are the perfect recipe for a headache. It’s a sad but true fact. I know, I’m depressed that I even had to write that.
  • Buy wine from a good vintage & from a trusted vineyard. If the grape crop was bad for that year then it’s possible that the flaws of the wine have been cleverly hidden with substances that simply scream hangover in a bottle.
  • Try organic wine! Organic wines are produced with the bare minimum of added extras. It may seem hippity-dippity of me, but there are some great organic wines out there so don’t diss it before you try it!

As part of my research I recently visited Harris Organic Wines in the Swan Valley in Western Australia. I had a good talk with the owner and winemaker, Duncan about this topic and he too suggested the likely cause could be sulphites and possibly acidity, as acidity levels are also generally higher in white wines.

After tasting through the Harris Organic Wines range I actually had a new appreciation for this style of winemaking. The dry whites (learn more about dry white wines here), sweet whites and reds were all very beautiful wines, I was flabbergasted at the quality actually. Check out my tasting note on the Harris Organic 2009 Verdelho here.

After all this if you are still suffering, well it’s not the end of the world. Just think of all those reds out there to taste. Plus these days you can get some lovely reds which are meant to be chilled prior to drinking – perfect for summer! And of cause you have the Aussie phenomena of sparkling reds if you really feel like putting on a show.

Please leave a comment on your thoughts of the great debate on what causes the ‘white wine headache’ and any tips and tricks on how to avoid it.. Help a wino out!
Disprin Black & White