What Causes Wine Hangovers And Why Are They So Bad?

David J Sharp
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Did you know that over 75% of people who consume alcohol experience hangovers at some point in their lives? And if you’re a wine drinker, you’re no exception.

Wine hangovers can be particularly brutal, leaving you with a pounding headache, nausea, and a general feeling of misery. But what exactly causes these hangovers, and why are they so much worse than other types of alcohol hangovers?

To understand the answer to that question, you need to have a basic understanding of how alcohol affects your body. When you drink alcohol, it enters your bloodstream and travels to your brain, where it affects your neurotransmitters and causes you to feel relaxed and less inhibited.

But as your liver works to break down the alcohol, it can produce toxic byproducts called congeners, which can intensify the effects of a hangover. Additionally, wine contains a high amount of sugar and can lead to dehydration, both of which can contribute to the severity of a wine hangover.

So, let’s dive in and explore the science behind wine hangovers and what makes them so unbearable.

Understanding Alcohol’s Effects on the Body

Alcohol’s effects on the body can be pretty intense, which is why it’s important to understand how it affects us.

When we consume alcohol, our bodies begin to metabolize it in the liver. This process breaks the alcohol down into acetaldehyde, which is a toxic substance that can lead to unpleasant side effects such as nausea, headaches, and fatigue.

The liver is the organ responsible for metabolizing alcohol, and it can only process a certain amount of alcohol per hour. If we consume more alcohol than our liver can handle, it can lead to a buildup of acetaldehyde in our system, which can result in a hangover.

The severity of a hangover can vary depending on how much alcohol was consumed, as well as other factors such as dehydration and lack of sleep.

The Role of Congeners in Wine Hangovers

Congeners, the chemical compounds produced during fermentation, are like the unwanted guests at a party who stick around long after everyone else has left and make a mess of everything. These compounds are responsible for the color, aroma, and flavor of wine, but they also contribute to the toxicity levels of the drink.

Congeners are known to cause more severe hangovers than other alcoholic beverages, and wine is particularly high in these compounds compared to other drinks. Here are some ways that congeners can contribute to wine hangovers:

  1. Congeners can cause headaches and nausea, which are common symptoms of wine hangovers.
  2. Sulfites, which are added to wine as a preservative, can also contribute to hangovers. Sulfites can cause allergic reactions in some people, leading to headaches and other symptoms.
  3. Antioxidants, which are found in red wine, can actually help to prevent hangovers. However, the high levels of congeners in red wine can counteract the positive effects of antioxidants.
  4. The type of wine you drink can also affect the severity of your hangover. Darker wines, such as red wine, contain more congeners than lighter wines, such as white wine.

Understanding the role of congeners in wine hangovers is just one piece of the puzzle. Dehydration and sugar content in wine also play a significant role in the severity of hangovers.

Dehydration and Sugar Content in Wine

When you’re enjoying a glass (or two) of your favorite vino, it’s important to remember that the sugar content and dehydration levels can also contribute to your morning-after discomfort.

Alcohol metabolism, dehydration, and electrolyte imbalance are the primary culprits behind the dreaded wine hangover. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it increases urine production, leading to dehydration. Dehydration causes headaches, fatigue, and dizziness, which are all common symptoms of a hangover.

The sugar content in wine can also lead to a hangover. In general, the higher the sugar content, the more likely you are to experience a hangover. Sugar increases the production of insulin, which can lead to low blood sugar levels. This, in turn, can cause headaches, fatigue, and shakiness.

Additionally, the sugar in wine can mask the effects of alcohol, making it easier to drink more than you should. When combined with dehydration, high sugar content can make a hangover even worse.

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at grape varieties and fermentation processes and how they can affect hangovers.

Grape Varieties and Fermentation Processes

You may experience some discomfort the morning after enjoying your favorite glass of vino, particularly if it was made from certain grape varieties or underwent specific fermentation processes.

Wine acidity and tannins are two factors that can contribute to the severity of your hangover. High levels of acidity in wine can irritate your stomach lining, while tannins can cause headaches and nausea.

Red wines tend to have higher tannin levels than white wines, making them more likely to cause hangovers.

The influence of climate on grape variety can also play a role in the severity of your hangover. Grapes that are grown in warmer climates tend to have higher sugar levels, which in turn produce more alcohol during the fermentation process. This means that wines made from these grapes can have higher alcohol content, leading to more severe hangovers.

However, it’s important to note that personal tolerance to alcohol also plays a significant role in how your body reacts to wine.

Personal Tolerance to Alcohol

Feeling terrible after a night of drinking can be rough, but it’s important to remember that your individual tolerance to alcohol greatly affects how your body handles it. Alcohol metabolism is different for everyone, and genetic factors play a big role in determining how quickly your body processes alcohol.

Here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to your personal alcohol tolerance:

  1. Size matters. The bigger you are, the more water you have in your body, which can help dilute the alcohol and make it easier for your body to process.

  2. Age is a factor. As you get older, your body becomes less efficient at metabolizing alcohol, which means you might get drunk more quickly and experience worse hangovers.

  3. Women tend to have a lower alcohol tolerance than men. This is because women generally have less body water and more body fat than men, which means they can’t dilute the alcohol as effectively.

  4. Your overall health can also affect your alcohol tolerance. If you’re dehydrated, for example, you’ll feel the effects of alcohol more strongly. Similarly, if you’re taking certain medications or have an underlying health condition, you might be more susceptible to the negative effects of alcohol.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can drinking water while consuming wine prevent a hangover?

Drinking water while consuming wine can actually help prevent a hangover. This is because alcohol can cause dehydration, which is one of the main culprits behind a hangover.

When you drink water, you can help counteract the effects of dehydration and keep your electrolytes balanced. Electrolytes are important for proper bodily function, and when they become imbalanced, it can lead to unpleasant symptoms like headaches and nausea.

So, if you want to enjoy a glass of wine without the dreaded hangover, make sure to drink plenty of water alongside it.

Will higher quality wines cause less severe hangovers?

When it comes to quality vs. hangover, the general belief is that higher quality wines may cause less severe hangovers.

However, the truth is that the severity of a hangover is largely dependent on individual factors such as hydration, tolerance, and overall health.

That being said, there is a correlation between the chemistry of wine and the possibility of a hangover. Cheaper wines tend to have more impurities and congeners, which are byproducts of fermentation and can contribute to a hangover.

Quality wines, on the other hand, are often made with better ingredients and have a higher alcohol content, which can also contribute to a hangover if consumed excessively.

Ultimately, the best way to prevent a hangover is to drink in moderation and stay hydrated throughout the evening.

Does the temperature of the wine impact the likelihood of a hangover?

If you’re wondering whether the temperature of the wine can impact the likelihood of a hangover, the answer is yes.

The temperature at which you drink wine can affect how quickly the alcohol is absorbed into your bloodstream.

When wine is served at a colder temperature, it can slow down the rate at which alcohol is absorbed, which can make you feel less drunk and potentially decrease the severity of a hangover.

However, it’s important to note that the alcohol content of the wine is still the most important factor when it comes to hangovers.

So if you’re looking to avoid a hangover, it’s best to drink in moderation and choose wines with lower alcohol content.

Are certain foods more likely to cause a hangover when paired with wine?

Pairing certain foods with wine can increase the likelihood and severity of a hangover. It’s like mixing oil and water, they just don’t mix well.

Foods that are high in salt, fat, and sugar can dehydrate your body faster, which can exacerbate a hangover. However, there are also food pairings that can help alleviate hangover symptoms.

For example, eating foods high in electrolytes, like bananas or avocados, can help rehydrate your body and reduce the severity of a hangover. Additionally, consuming foods high in vitamin B6, like spinach or salmon, can help increase your body’s ability to metabolize alcohol.

So, the next time you’re planning a night of wine drinking, consider pairing it with some hangover remedies to ensure a better morning.

Can taking pain relievers before consuming wine prevent a hangover?

Looking to prevent a hangover from wine? There are a few preventative measures you can take before indulging.

One alternative remedy is taking pain relievers such as ibuprofen or aspirin before drinking. This can help reduce inflammation caused by alcohol and limit the severity of a hangover. However, it’s important to note that taking pain relievers before drinking can have negative effects on your liver and stomach lining if done too frequently.

It’s always best to practice moderation and drink plenty of water while enjoying your wine to prevent a hangover altogether.


So, you’ve learned a lot about wine hangovers and why they can be so brutal. But don’t let that discourage you from enjoying a glass of wine every now and then. Remember, moderation is key.

You can also try drinking water in between glasses of wine to stay hydrated and reduce the effects of dehydration. And, of course, listen to your body. If you know you have a low tolerance for alcohol, take it easy and don’t overdo it.

In the end, the science behind wine hangovers is complex and multifaceted, but by understanding the various factors that contribute to their severity, you can take steps to minimize their impact.

So go ahead and enjoy that glass of wine, but do so responsibly and keep in mind the potential consequences. Cheers!

David J Sharp is a wine equipment expert, having previously worked with some of the best wine cooler manufacturers within the USA. Today he works as a full-time wine cooler and wine cellar consultant for small and large clients alike. You can find out more about LoveCraftWines here.

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