Theories About The Red Wine Hangover

This has been a question that has bugged me for several years now.  And I know people are not drinking wines because of it.  I don’t know how many times I have heard this, but here it goes.   “I can drink European and some American wines like Turtle Run Wines and I don’t get a headache the next day, but if I drink other wines, whammo!”  I’ve toyed around with this question for many years, and here are my thoughts.  I looked on line to see what others thought, and found two websites that I think are worth referencing.  Check out http://www.7× and

In my ADD / ADHD world, I’ll reference the second one first.  I think Lisa Shea provides great insight, especially with the food you eat while consuming wine.   There is not much I can debate about what she writes.  She nails my sulfite thoughts with her dried apricot trick (lots more sulfites in those than wine).  And her discussion on tannins and histamines is very insightful.  So check out, as she answers a lot of questions people have about wine and especially why sulfites are added.

The folks at 7× brings up two great, great points and I think what they write about may be the thorn in your head in the morning.  To quote them:    “Most of us don’t realize that there are lots of secret additives that go into wines, including gelatins, egg whites, milk, fish oils, plastics, clays and many others. Most of these settle out over time, but there are others that don’t — namely flavor concentrates. These flavor concentrates (liquid oak, Mega Red and Purple, grape juice concentrate) and food-safe chemicals are used in inexpensive wines to make them taste like more expensive ones. This can lead to all kinds of trouble. Also, wines with high sugar content and low price tags cause trouble because “you can blend away a whole lot of defects with a little bit of sugar.’”

And another potential zinger from the site about oak barrels:  “Cheap oak (most wines are aged in oak barrels) is often charred to greater levels or treated with chemicals to increase the speed of flavor absorption while the wine ages.”  Laura often talks about tasting wines that have an “artificial oak flavor” to them.  I perused through one of my catalogs and found all sorts of products that can add some quick oak notes as well as others that can bring the life back to barrels.

And for just a general nutrition thought on how artificially derived ingredients can cause some folks issues, check out . “The problem comes in with processed sugar and processed starch. White table sugar has no nutrients. White bread is a processed, artificial starch. These are not foods – they do not nourish.”  Essentially, if you read further into the research, our bodies simply freak out trying to adapt to the modern diet of processed foods, causing all sorts of maladies.  Essentially, when the nature of natural foods is affected via subtraction or addition of ingredients, the body has to cope with what we ingest.  It’s an amazing article, and very long.  Because I have done a lot of research on nutrition, it made a lot of sense to me.  I can see it being a tough first pass read for those that haven’t delved into nutrition very closely.  If you do look into it, I agree with the author that alcohol is a sugar.  But like fructose is processed completely differently than glucose by the body, so does alcohol.  There is a lot of research showing that the more complex the alcoholic beverage is (like wine, the craft beers) the more beneficial and less concerning they are for ingestion.  As with any food or beverage, moderation is the key.

My thoughts on the subject of wine hangovers:   While Lisa is correct that generally speaking wines made in Europe and America are the same, in ways they are different.  I believe many small to mid-sized wineries here and abroad, and many large wineries abroad have not been exposed to all of the crazy additives that exist in the market today.  And I also believe that the main purpose of these additives is to make exceptionally consistent wines and not consistently exceptional wines.  Having worked in the corporate world for many years, bottom line management to quarterly earnings are the main drivers to overall corporate behavior.  With wines containing upwards of 1500 natural chemical compounds, having one vintage better (or worse) than another causes too much variability in those earning reports.  So the drive to consistent wines, wines in which there is little to no vintage variation in flavors, aromas, and mouth feel, and perhaps “better, cheaper, faster” are the driving forces behind the additives that have snuck into our wine industry.  So that’s why, to me, wines have gone down this path.  And I think the over manufacturing of wines with the additives plays a very strong role in those headaches.  My text books from the 1980’s show the French using clays, egg whites, gelatin and even ox blood in the 1800’s to clarify and remove bitterness.  And those products or fining agents do precipitate out of wines.  I don’t have a problem with them per se.  However, due to the very, very good grape press that we have, we are not running into the need to fine wines.  And due to our ability to fine tune our filter to do not strip away character, our need for fining agents diminish even further.  I also think there is nutritional value in those bitters, so as long as we don’t have any negative taste issues, we are leaving them in the wines.

Today, whenever I buy American made wines, I look on the back of the label to see if I can find the family owned labels, most of which say “produced and bottled.”  When I look for European wines, I look for labels that have not been “Americanized” meaning perhaps a little foreign language here and there, very little descriptive wording, etc.

The crystals that 7×7 talks about are not sugar.  If a winery adds sugar into wine, it will dissolve into the wine.  What is on the bottom of some bottles of wine is simply crème of tartar, a very natural precipitate in wines.  All wineries do a process called cold stabilization, in which we freeze the wines before bottling.  However, in a catalog, I see I can now add something that will stabilize my wine without the need to cold stabilize them.  Hmmm…no, I am not going to experiment with that.

So why did I choose to write about this subject matter?  Very simple.  The wine industry is losing customers.  If you, perhaps, got a zinger of a headache from drinking a red wine, you probably don’t want to drink that beverage again.  Perhaps you tried after the headache a dry red again on a later date, and again got zinged by a headache.  Red wine suddenly gets crossed off the list.  What I want to say is that not all wines are made this way.  I speculate the reason why all of us haven’t adapted to the additive approach is multi-faceted.  First, some of us have not been exposed to the new chemistry like I have.  Second, there can be reluctance to adding some of these things, such as I have had.  Have these chemicals been fully tested?  What is the real impact to adding these to the winemaking process?  I’ve been successful without them, some wineries may be saying, so why should I change now?  And perhaps after making a test run of wine with chemical additions, wineries have found that that the flavors are inconsistent with the wines they have been making for many years.  I’m sure there are other reasons as well.

We’ve just had too many conversations with customers who no longer drink certain categories of wines.  And when I question them if they had these problems with Turtle Run wines, I get a “no” nearly every time.

Over the years, Laura and I have developed a “taste” for the adjuncts that are added to wines.  We can sense them right away in both taste and smell.  Laura and I regularly drink other wines aside from Turtle Run.  When we open a wine with the characteristic taste markers of these additives, we simply open another bottle. I know, it’s a waste, but so is waking up not feeling great the next day.  Which costs more?  Loss of productivity from feeling off our game or the cost of not finishing a bottle that has additives that don’t come natural to the wines?  By the way, Laura has been urging me to use some of these wines in wine appreciation classes for the past few years.  Perhaps I will in February, with the labels removed.

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