“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 recently blew my mind. Was my “reaction” not a deliberate effect of my liberal consumption the night before? Was there another reason to my panda-eyed, coyote ugly hangover? … I probed. “Just as a banana holds the compounds 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.”
Symptoms include: headaches, blocked noses, runny noses, sneezing and migraines and they may manifest almost immediately or not until the next morning.
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.
*Cue revelation: poor me, I’m allergic to wine* Aston continued, “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 wine should we choose to avoid our bed-ridden state tomorrow? Jeff Aston explains.
5 tips for avoiding a hangover, according to a winemaker
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.” Better yet, opt for this new calorie-free “spirit”.
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.
“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.
Not only is alcohol a diuretic but it also suppresses the release of the hormone vasopressin, which is responsible for repurposing 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.
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.