We’ve all had at least one hangover, right? You know how it is, you stay for that last glass of wine and you start to regret it on the way home as that familiar knot of pain begins to take up residence behind your eyes…

Most often, a hangover is mostly down to plain old dehydration – you forgot to alternate wine with water, or you forgot your regulation two glasses of water before you went to bed.

For some of us, though, it’s a bit more complicated. Some people get hangovers despite drinking lots of water, and even despite drinking very little alcohol. What’s that all about and can you prevent it?

There are three culprits (other than dehydration), and thankfully there are three solutions.

Sulfites are not implicated, however. They can cause asthma, but not hangovers.


Tannins are compounds that occur naturally in the skins, seeds and stems of grapes. They have a drying effect on your mouth, but cause no other problems for most people. However, if you get headaches from reds, especially Malbecs, then it could be the tannins. One thing you can do is a test to see if you’re susceptible. Brew some black tea for ten minutes longer than normal, drink it and see if you get a headache. If you do, your best solution is to stick to whites.


Alcohol and sugar can come together to create a powerful headache. Both alcohol and sugar deplete the body of water and so if you haven’t drunk enough H2O alongside wine, you may regret it. Your body has to process the sugar and alcohol regardless, so it’ll draw water from elsewhere in your body to do it. Once your brain starts to lose water and shrink (this is only temporary!), it’ll start to pull on the membranes surrounding it, causing significant pain. Just make sure you either top up with water before, during and after boozing. You should also be extra careful when you’re drinking sweet wines like Riesling so you’re not losing water to the hydrolysis of sugar.


Histamines are released during allergic reactions, causing a runny nose, sore eyes and sometimes a sore head. If you find you get a headache after aged meats and wines, then as well as drinking water, you should take a non-drowsy anti-histamine before you drink red wines or aged whites.

Your best strategy, of course, is to stay well-hydrated and don’t go overboard…