I just had a friend of mine do an organic wine tasting for my guests at a party I had at my house this week, and it made me think about how and why I react negatively to certain wines. In fact, I barely drink it anymore because of how bad it can make me feel. On the other hand, when I travel to Italy or France, I feel fine when drinking basic table wine there-hence the picture of Italian wine from a region I love! This could be because it contains less preservatives (No Added Sulfites!).
Organic Wine is wine without added sulfites. Under the USDA National Organic Program, sulfites are a synthetic food additive. They are not allowed in organic wine or any other certified organic food products, such as dried fruits, jams, salad dressings or juices.
100% Organic: The wine is made from 100% certified organic ingredients, processed without synthetic agents and contains no added sulfites; naturally occuring sulfite levels in these wines are between 10 and 20 parts per million (ppm). The label will bear the USDA organic seal.
All wine, beer and cheese contain some natural sulfites. The presence of natural sulfites is so small that it normally does not present a problem to anyone but the most sulfite-sensitive. However, added sulfites may sometimes cause negative side effects, like nasal congestion, an itchy throat, a runny nose, skin rash, and hives in some people. It has been reported in medical literature that less than 1% of people have a strong allergic reaction to sulfites.
Does this mean you will not get a headache if you drink organic wine? Yes, cheap wine can give you a headache. So can expensive wine. Some people point the finger at sulphites – you often find more of these in white wines – but these are known more for causing allergic reactions. Histamines can trigger headaches, and there are more of these present in red wines than whites.
If you know red wine often gives you a headache, consider steering clear of wines made from thick-skinned grapes (like Zinfandel, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon) and choose a wine made from a thin-skinned grape (like Pinot Noir, Sémillon, and Merlot) instead.
Wine contains two kinds of amines, histamines and tyramines; histamines dilate blood vessels in the brain, while tyramines constrict them. Both of these actions can cause headaches in people who are sensitive to one or both of the chemicals.
In addition to a possible headache, wine can also make us sleepy, and for a good reason. The seeds and skin and flesh of grapes actually do contain melatonin, a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain that controls your sleep cycles. So it stands to reason that wine—white or red—would make us all sleepy.
It makes sense to me to drink organic wine whenever possible, and I will definitely avoid wines made from thick-skinned grapes to prevent headaches. I am so happy to enjoy an occasional glass of wine again! As always, daydreaming of my next trip to Italy!