Northern Ohio Wine Guild explains sulfites and hangovers

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The best way to reduce the chance for a hangover headache is to drink less.

By Mary Malik

Holiday celebrations often equal overindulgence on food, family and, yes, alcohol. And with that last one can come the dreaded day-after hangover.

“There’s a common misconception that when wine is the drink of choice, it’s the sulfites or other ‘additives’ that cause the headaches and other problems,” says Jim Sperk, of the Northern Ohio Wine Guild. “Actually, less than 0.1 percent of the population has a sulfite allergy. And if you’re one of them, you know to stay away from deli meats, dried fruits, cheese and other foods that contain sulfites, or sulfur dioxide.”

Jim warns that even though it is often said that “natural wines” don’t produce hangovers, don’t believe it.

“There’s no such thing as a wine free of sulfites,” says Jim. “Yeast naturally produces 10 ppm or more sulfur dioxide as part of the fermentation process. Dr. Linda Bisson, a yeast geneticist and expert in fermentation, says that histamines are actually the main cause of headaches in people susceptible to such wine-induced headaches, not sulfites.”

According to Dr. Bisson, ironically, biogenic amines and histamines are much more likely to be elevated in wines that have inadequate sulfur dioxide. These are actually two of the hallmarks of many self-proclaimed “natural wines.”

“Sulfur dioxide helps promote clean fermentations and its use in winemaking actually contributes to lower levels of biogenic amines and histamines,” says Jim. “Really, the easiest way to reduce the hangover headache is to reduce the amount of alcohol consumed.”

For information on the Northern Ohio Wine Guild, contact Jim Sperk at

Categories: Food & Dining