Ask drinkplanner the wine hangover

Ask DrinkPlanner is a reoccurring feature here where readers submit their questions, and the crack team at DrinkPlanner does our best to answer. Got a question about booze? Ask us!

Here we are again on a Friday, and it’s time for another Ask DrinkPlanner. Hang on to your britches!

Dear DrinkPlanner

Why is the hangover headache after drinking wine so much different/worse than with other types of alcohol?


Crushed by Cabernet”

The answer is…well there is no clear answer. Lots of theories out there, lots of small things that add up to the particular head-compacting pain wine (and red wine in particular) bring the morning after, so I’m going to do my best to try and sift through them and make some sort of sense out of them.

Some argue that there is no difference, that alcohol is alcohol is alcohol, and it doesn’t matter what you drink, the alcohol is the same. In a sense, they’re right, all alcohol is Ethanol (aka ethyl alcohol aka C2H5OH…science, bitches!) and it doesn’t matter if it’s tequila or whiskey or wine or beer, it’s the same chemical compound dehydrating you and convincing you that you should totally ignore the stinkeye that girl across the bar is giving you and see if she wants to make out. And if that was the only thing in booze, then they’d be right (though you still probably wouldn’t be making out with Sally Stinkeye).

So what else is in your booze? For starters, congeners. Congeners are impurities that occur in the fermentation of alcohol. These impurities are basically toxins, and by design, make you feel like a hot bucket of shit if you drink enough of them. The rule with congeners is: the darker the alcohol, the more congeners. That’s really one of the biggest selling points of quadruple-distilled uber-premium vodkas, is that they’ve got the fewest possible impurities in them, and therefore are less likely to make your head feel like it’s sitting under the tire of a dump truck. So your bourbons, brandys, aged rums and tequilas, and yes red wines fall under the banner of high-congener alcohols.

There’s also a possibility that sulfites are the cause of your pain, which occur naturally in all wines. However, less than 1% of the population is sensitive to sulfites, so it’s unlikely.

Could be a bad grape harvest.

Could be the wine is too young. Wine younger than three years has a higher concentration of impurities.

Histamines, tyramine, tannins…the list of possible culprits goes on and on. They’re all a bunch of little things that may be the reason. Or, more likely, it’s the combination of all these little things that adds up to one big headache.

Since the levels of all these things (and the age) vary from wine to wine, I suggest keeping track of which ones give you the worst headaches, and steer away from them. Eventually you’ll find one that you like and that doesn’t get into fistfights with your skull.

And so we come to the conclusion of another thrilling installment of Ask DrinkPlanner. Got a booze question? Ask DrinkPlanner!

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    […] you may remember from our Ask DrinkPlanner from a few weeks ago concerning wine and hangovers, alcohol is alcohol is alcohol.  It is, at its core, all ethyl […]

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