How I Solved My Wine Headaches

Clean Wine that probably won't give you a headache!

For several years I thought I was allergic to wine. I would get debilitating headaches once a month. Clearly I wasn’t willing to give up wine since I thought it was going on for two years. I later figured out that I was actually getting menstrual migraines.

Once I started treating my migraines, then I realized I was still getting massive headaches when I drank wine. Not as bad as the 4-day menstrual migraines, but in addition to simply getting older, when I consumed wine, I increasingly felt worse and worse. Not just the terrible headaches, but that overall hungover feeling was amplified, I couldn’t function, I couldn’t sleep, and my stomach would sometimes be irritated.

Clearly I was not willing to give up wine, I posted something about my wine headache hangover on Facebook and an old friend of mine reached out with a possible solution. She was a wine rep and told me to try her wine.

We chatted about the wines, and she told me how they were “clean” and they might solve my problems. I ordered a few bottles from her, did a few tests meaning I drank half a bottle, then almost a full bottle, then a full bottle on my own a few times, and never got a headache or the other symptoms I usually get after drinking a full bottle of red by myself. I was shocked.

Recently I did the ultimate test — I had at least 6-7 glasses in a night (a bottle and a half). No headache, and only the most minor feeling of I drank last night the next morning. Equivalent to not sleeping well and feeling a bit foggy/groggy. Solvable with coffee and water. But I was amazed, shocked honestly, that I didn’t have an ounce of a headache because I don’t care how “clean” a wine is — 6 glasses of red is a lot of alcohol. A few months prior, I had drank around 4-5 glasses of not clean red wine and my body literally rejected it — I puked it up and then was in bed for 3 days unable to function. My body just isn’t the same as it was when I was 22 — hangovers are just so much worse now. So this new “clean” wine was very interesting to me.

I called my friend and was like TELL ME MORE! I wanted to know more details about this magic wine. Why didn’t it affect me like so many other wines did?

My friend told me that Sarah, the founder of the wine company, the whole reason she founded the company was because she herself was getting wine headaches and she set out to figure out why. Even with just one sip of wine, she would get a headache. One night, she went to dinner with friends who were French and they only drank a specific French wine that night. She expected to have a massive headache, but didn’t. So what was the difference? Why can so many Americans go to Europe and drink some of the wine there, and not experience some of the same negative feelings afterward? Why do some wines give you headaches and some don’t?

Sarah was determined to find out. She quit her job as a lawyer, got deep into research about the wine industry, became a level 3 sommelier, and founded an entire company that only sells what she coined “clean-crafted” wine.

You might have heard of organic wine, biodynamic wine, or even natural wine. So what are they? What is “clean-crafted” wine?

Unfortunately, the wine world is just like our messed up food world — tons of chemicals and additives and additional sugar are added to wine. Why? Why would a winemaker add that type of stuff to wine? And my thought — how did I not know this!?! Well you wouldn’t — there’s no nutrition label on wine. How could you know!?

Think about your favorite wine. What vineyard is it from? Have you been buying it for several years? Does it taste the same every year? Typically, consumers like to find wines they like, and then they continue to buy them over and over from the grocery store, and the expectation is that a certain company’s Chardonnay or Pinot Noir would taste the same or very similar year to year, but that simply just isn’t possible.

Wine is made out of fermented grapes, and grapes are obviously a fruit that grow outside on a vine. But the weather isn’t the exact same every year, grapes don’t taste the same every year, they don’t get picked a the same time each year, and wine actually shouldn’t be the exact same year to year. That’s why you hear talks of certain vintages being better than others depending on the weather and other factors. So companies will add things to the wine to make it taste the same from year to year because the consumer wants it to be the same, and those things they add are the chemicals, additives, added sugars, etc.

If the color isn’t good, color is added. If it just doesn’t taste that good, they alter the taste. Not enough oak flavor? Oak chips or powder is added. All of these chemicals and additives shouldn’t be in your wine, but they are.

It was a good and bad thing when I found all of this out. I was sad that the wine industry was is messed up like this, but happy that I found clean options that don’t give me the side effects that I used to get. I love wine too much!

Once I found this magical wine I started telling my friends about it and they were all saying how they have the same headache and other problems after drinking wine. Where could they get this wine!?!

You know when you find something out that is seriously helpful and a big deal to you (like my pasties!), and you know other people have the same problems, so you just want to tell everyone about it? That’s how I feel about this wine. I love wine. Like love love love wine. I was not willing to give up on wine. And now with what I’ve found out about what is in a lot of mass-produced wine, and that there are wines that DON’T have all the bad junk in them and they taste just as good — I beg to say, they actually taste BETTER, they literally taste clean — and these wines don’t give me the after effects that I was having with other wine, I want to help spread the word. Because everyone who loves wine but gets headaches or stomach aches or just doesn’t feel great after drinking it in general, deserves to at least know about and try clean/natural wines, and see if their issues are with the chemicals, or additives, high sulfites, etc., can be solved. I can’t promise everyone’s problems will be solved, but it’s worth a try! It worked for me and a lot of people who were nervous to try this wine because of headaches have reported back to me and almost all of them had their wine headache problem solved.

The most common reason people get headaches from wine is because they aren’t hydrated enough. So make sure to drink more water!

You can also try drinking a wine with a lower alcohol content, and that could help with your issues as well. If you already don’t drink enough water, and then you drink a lot of alcohol, alcohol dehydrates the body, so drinking water and wine with a lower alcohol contents can help. And usually red wine has higher in alcohol than white.

There’s actually a great podcast called Wine For Normal People about why people get wine headaches where they talk about the tannins and sulfites and histamines. The title is Audio Blog 14: Red Wine Headaches published on March 1, 2017.

I’m not an expert so you should listen to the episode, but basically what they said in the episode is that you can test by drinking certain wines and keeping track of how they make you feel to figure out what your issue is. If you are one of the 1-5% of Americans who has a sulfite allergy, then you will actually have an allergic reaction to wines high in sulfites, not a headache. If you have a sensitivity to histamines, you might have an allergic reaction, rash, sneezing, and/or headache. Talk to your doctor about reactions, but typically you can take a non-drowsy antihistamine (like I do for allergies) an hour before you drink wine, and that can help if histamines are your issue. If you have an issue with tannins, I’m not sure there’s much you can do besides drink whites and lighter reds.

Basically, you can be a detective and try to figure out what your specific issue is and then how to solve it. I actually didn’t have to get to this point. Simply just drinking clean wine solved whatever my own problem was.

Another great podcast you can listen to to learn more about natural wine is called Natural Disasters. Marissa and Adam are very knowledgable about the natural wine industry. I learn something every time I listen to them!

If you’ve seen my Instagram stories lately, you might have noticed a few wine tastings going on. Some of you have even DM’d me about it. That’s because I’ve decided to join in and get the word out about clean wine. It just made such a HUGE difference in my life, I feel like everyone deserves to know about it. The more spending power that gets behind natural clean wine the more the bigger wine companies will be forced to change their dirty practices (similar to organic produce and the farm-to-table movement and eating locally).

So how do you know which wines are clean or not? Well, you don’t really. You can’t go into the grocery store and know which wines are fully clean? The label might tell you that the wine is organic, there might even be an organic section, but that only means the grapes are farmed organically, that doesn’t mean any of the other crap isn’t added later in the winemaking process. You can hope it does, but it doesn’t. There are still tons of additives and sugar that wine with the “organic” label have in them. It’s very misleading. And of course the big companies making millions and millions of dollars off of cheap crappy “wine” don’t want you to know — so they will fight to keep the wine industry a mystery.

Unless you have a local wine shop with a very knowledgable owner & staff that cares about natural wine on a deep level, and you can ask them about it (beyond the generic question of — is this organic?), otherwise you aren’t going to know if there is additional crap added to the wine unless you do your own research and then hunt down the wine. Which isn’t easy. Wine labels don’t have an ingredient list, and they don’t have to list the grams of added sugar, or have to list what types of additives they’ve put in them. How would you know anything beyond whether or not the grapes are farmed organically when buying wine in a store? You wouldn’t.

Also, getting federal organic label or the California Organic certification, costs a lot of money, and some winemakers can’t afford it. So while they might have organic practices, you wouldn’t know.

A lot of “clean” wine, because it’s handmade, doesn’t have large quantities big enough to be sold in grocery stores all over the world. Most natural wines are much smaller operations that don’t make a huge profit and there just isn’t that much wine, so it sells out faster. All the wines on my site are only available for an average of 45 days before they sell out.

One thing to know is that most natural clean wine, is going to a little more expensive than conventional wine. Your $2 and $4 dollar wines at the store, I’m sorry to say, you get what you pay for. And Trader Joe’s even came out with an “organic” cheap wine recently, which unfortunately I’ve heard (episode 5) is terrible, and not truly natural. From what I’ve learned, most truly clean wines will start around $18 a bottle on the low end.

I’m not a wine expert or a sommelier — I’m just someone who loves wine, wants to spread the word about clean wine, and is deep diving into learning about it! So if you are a wine expert, just know I’m not trying to claim things I don’t know or sound like an expert — I’m not! I’m just an enthusiast and a person who loves wine, drinks wine, wants to learn more about wine, learn more about my palette, and wants to support the natural wine industry. I want to take you all along with me on the ride. I want to learn about what I’m drinking, I want to know how to pair it with food, and enjoy wine to the fullest extent.

So how can you buy wine that is truly clean from beginning to end? Throughout all the different processes wine goes through after the farming, how can you be sure that nothing is added to it to enhance it or change it? Well, there aren’t many ways to know this information. You can do a lot of research, and talk to wine shop owners, winemakers, etc., but you do need to be careful about what certain words mean and where there are loop holes around using them — like the word organic. (Obviously I’m telling you one solution, you can find it here.)

There’s also another type of farming that is basically souped-up organic — it’s called biodynamic farming. It’s a little woo woo, but in my understanding it’s a step beyond organic. Then the words “natural” and “clean” — I’m pretty sure neither of those words are regulated and can be used to describe anything, so that’s why you have to get into specifics when researching and asking questions about chemicals, additives, added sugar, the level of sulfites, etc. I use the term “natural wine” when talking about the movement of natural wine usually, and I also use all of these words — organic, clean, natural — to help people understand what I’m talking about without going into too much detail.

The company that I’m now a rep for coined the term “clean-crafted” and all of the wine we offer has to be up to a certain level of standards. (You can check out all of my wine here!) The founder of the company, Sarah — who is a level 3 sommelier — travels the world tasting and curating wine, getting to know the winemakers, inspecting the vineyards and winemaking practices, and once she’s found a wine she approves, a wine that meets all of her “clean-crafted” standards, she then gets the wine independently lab-tested just to make sure nothing was added. There have been times when wines have come back from testing and didn’t pass the standards after she was convinced by the winemaker they were, so then she didn’t buy them.

Clean-crafted wine is not only farmed organically or biodynamically, but it has no added sugar (yes, there is up to 16 grams in mass-produced wine!), no additives or chemicals (commonly added FDA-approved products used as additives in wine are ferrocyanide, ammonium phosphate, copper sulfate, mega purple, gmo ingredients), and each of our bottles have under 100ppm of sulfites (most actually have under 50ppm!). Most mass-produced wine have between 300-400ppm of sulfites!

Basically, all of the wine on my site will have ZERO added chemicals, additives, no added sugar, under 100ppm sulfites (which are naturally occurring in wine and are a preservative), the grapes are all hand-picked (not picked by a machine or mass-produced), they are farmed organically or with biodynamic farming methods, most are old vines, and then additionally independently lab tested to make sure of all of these things.

In the past 10 years there’s been a huge shift to a cleaner healthier lifestyle. Consumers want to know what’s in their food, what’s in their beauty, and now, what’s in their wine. Just like farm-to-table produce, and clean/healthy beauty products, now there’s clean wine. Some vineyards and winemakers have been clean the whole time, but you just didn’t know it.

In addition to wanting to consume clean wine myself since it solved my headache problems, and then wanting to tell all of my friends about it, the entrepreneur in me couldn’t help but want to be involved. I could help educate the consumer and also sell wine (similar to commissions I get when I recommend products with affiliate links here on the blog like clothing and beauty, so if you buy wine from me, I make a commission).

No, I’m not going to bombard you with wine wine wine (although I’m sure some of you wouldn’t mind). I will write about what I think is relevant, and it might pop up here and there in content, as it would even if I wasn’t a rep because wine is just a part of my life. If I decided not to sell it, I still would have written this post and told you all about the wine and where to get it.

If you are interested in clean wine more than the few times I’ll talk about it here & on my main Instagram account, you can follow my wine Instagram @wineandwellness and sign up for my Wine Lovers newsletter. Even there I don’t think the coverage will be annoyingly excessive as wine isn’t my full-time job, it’s more of a passion side gig.

I think you all know by now I’m not a salesy person. If I really believe in something or love something I’ll tell you about it more than usual, and I mean it. I pride myself on honesty and transparency. I don’t care where you buy your wine, but if you care about what is in your wine, what you are putting in your body, or if wine gives you headaches or makes you feel ill and you want to buy wine through me and have it delivered to your house, awesome. Thanks in advance to those of you who do, and just FYI, orders over $99 get free shipping automatically.

But just like you go to the grocery store and buy a wine because you think you like that type of wine and the label is cute but you’ve never tried it, buying wine online is basically the same, except you don’t have to leave your house, and you can trust that any wine on my site has met the clean-crafted standards and has additionally been lab tested just to make sure nothing was snuck in or someone wasn’t being truthful.

Know that some of the wine labels you can only get through my company — Middle Jane, Dove Hunt Dog, and Fieldhouse — are not sold anywhere else. Just don’t want you to waste time trying to find them elsewhere, you won’t.

I talk about the wine a lot more in detail over on my wine Instagram @wineandwellness and in my Wine Lovers newsletter. So if you want more info, follow along there!

Feel free to email me at wine@megbiram.com if you have ANY questions about the wine or ordering, if you want to host a wine tasting, or if you want to get into the wine industry.

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Photo by John Canelis on Unsplash