So if sulfur dioxide isn't the culprit behind wine headaches, what is? It turns out there are several different causes for wine-related headaches, but scientists have yet to determine all the different compounds involved. Headaches from white wine have yet to have any causes identified, but a handful related to red wine headaches have been (still plenty more unidentified).
The first is an allergic reaction to biogenic amines, such as histamine and thryamine, which cause dilation of brain blood vessels. the higher concentrations of these compounds in red wine are usually not high enough to induce headaches. Nonetheless, with ethanol suppressing diamine oxidase (enzyme that inhibits biogenic amines) and phenolic compounds suppressing phenolsulfotransferase (PST; inactivates biogenic amines and catacholamines), red wine can be the perfect headache storm for some.
Other drinkers may experience allergic reactions to minute amounts of fining agents that may make it into the bottle (fining agents will be discussed in a later blog, but include such products as egg whites). Obviously, these are quite drinker-specific and many argue that concentrations are far to small to cause problems.
Another link has been made to an increased release of prostaglandins, another chemical involved in blood vessel dilation. Again, some people are more susceptible than others. Luckily, there is an easy way to prevent this from ruining your night with a nice bottle of Cabernet; take some prostaglandin synthesis inhibitors! Any over the counter anti-inflammatory such as Tylenol or Advil should do the trick.