Wed, 8 March 2017
The first in a series for Women's History Month, I speak to Laura Catena of Bodegas Catena Zapata in Mendoza, Argentina. We discuss her life as a doctor, a mom, and the head of a wine empire, the history of Malbec and how her family aided the meteoric rise of Argentine wine and of the comeback of the Malbec grape around the world.
A fun, sharp-as-a-tack woman, you'll learn a ton about Malbec, Mendoza, and a few life lessons from this fascinating podcast!
Laura’s History and Background on the Catena Family
Malbec and it’s Rich History
Laura’s Advice on Doing it All
Making Wine in Mendoza
The Wine Culture of Argentina and the Wines of Catena
Direct download: Ep_181__Laura_Catena_The_Leading_Lady_of_Argentine_Wine.mp3
Category:wine -- posted at: 12:44am EDT
Wed, 1 March 2017
Red Wine Headaches: Ideas On Causes and Remedies (but sadly not real solutions…)
Nearly every time I do a speaking event, a familiar scenario transpires. After the wine class, a person who seemed very interested in what I had to say approaches me with a sad look on his or her face and says, “I love the taste of wine. I’m so fascinated by the subject but I just can’t drink that often. I get a horrible headache every time I drink, especially with red wine. Is there anything I can do?”
My heart always breaks a little for that person and I hope that despite my obvious lack of expertise in health matters (here’s my caveat, I’m an MBA, not an MD so I am only offering this article second hand) that I can solve the problem and get the person back on track to enjoy wine, headache-free.
Before I go down this path, I want to be really clear about the information that’s widely available and that’s repeated over and over again in major wine outlets and news publications. I scoured scientific journals and I found an even better source – a scientist who scoured scientific journals – to see what conclusive evidence there is on this topic. What I and they found was a lot of half studies without a statistically significant result in most cases. The bottom line is that no one has funded a large-scale study on this topic. (And I get it: really, who is going to fund something like this, which is what it comes down to? Wine companies have other priorities and they would be the most likely cash source…). So as I share this info, I want to tell you now that except for two of these solutions, one which I can vouch for and another which has scientific proof behind it, the rest is pure conjecture.
Still, we’re not operating in the dark. There are some strong contenders for what is causing that nasty pounding after drinking wine or more specifically, red wine. And, better yet, if you’re not averse to taking an over-the-counter medicine, you could solve the problem fairly easily in many cases.
Let’s run through the different potential causes and give ideas on how to tackle them.
The first thing that is killing most heads…
I’m not going to hold you in suspense. I want to tell you the number one thing that is probably causing your headache: alcohol. It dehydrates the body, or to quote the UK National Health Service:
“Dehydration can also occur as a result of drinking too much alcohol. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it makes you wee more.” (insert immature chuckle here).
And what a lot of us fail to realize is that most wine is somewhere between 12.5% and 14.5% alcohol by volume. That means that for a 5 ounce glass of wine, 12.5% to 14.5%, more or less, is made up of alcohol. Contrast that with beer, which is more like 3-4% alcohol by volume and you see that wine is not as innocuous as it seems.
So if you happen to have one or two glasses of wine, especially red, which tends to be higher in alcohol (because the grapes are riper and picked later, thus upping the sugar), AND you have no water in between and no food or nibbles, you are robbing your body of water. Dehydration gives you a headache, so there you go!
First, try wines with lower alcohol content. If you can drink around 10% or 11% ABV versus 14%, that could help. Look on the bottle for the percentage – it’s required by law in most countries. Lower alcohol means more bang for your buck – 1 glass of this stuff won’t wallop you like one glass of a 14%’er will.
Alternately you can take a page out of the professional drinkers’ book people in the wine industry’s book. We’re usually downing water in between glasses or eating food to mitigate the effect of the high alcohol. It seems like our tolerances are off the charts (and they probably are to some extent) but a lot of that comes from experience and lots and lots of water.
Ok, that’s the number one cause of headaches. But there are several others, so don’t think I’m about to dismiss you if you’ve tried to drink water and it doesn’t work!
Next are the mean amines. Wines that go through malolactic fermentation release amines in the process, and have levels that can be 200% higher than in wines that don’t go through malo. There’s been some research done on the effect of the “amines” but nothing super conclusive. 
The second thing we’re pretty sure is causing pain: Histamines
Histamines are compounds that exist in wine at varying levels. Red wine and bubbly tend to be higher in these pesky enzymes. That means if you have a sensitivity, you may have a terrible allergic reaction, e.g., a headache, rash, even sneezing. This is especially true for people with a diamine oxidase deficiency (you can take a probiotic to help that problem, incidentally). The National Institute of Health in the US has shown that high levels of histamine in blood plasma can create bad allergic reactions, including allergy headaches. Since alcohol increases histamine in blood plasma, you could wind up suffering with a headache.
Pop the anti-histamine of your choice about an hour before you drink wine. Still drink the water to prevent dehydration, but see if this helps you out. Again, no conclusive studies on this one, but it has some research behind it, so I’d give it a try (just check the interactions with alcohol before you take anything).
And the less proven amine…
Some doctors posit that high levels of the amino acid tyramine, which can cause migraines, is the main cause of headache pain from wines. If stuff like processed meats (think pepperoni or hot dogs), tofu, soy sauce, miso, and cheeses like blue, brie, cheddar, Swiss, or Roquefort give you a headache, you may have an issue with tyramine. Although the levels are lower in red wine than in these foods, they go hand in hand. You’ll need to skip the wine and cheese pairings and stick to one small glass of wine if you think this may be your issue. That said, apart from a few doctors saying they think this is the problem, I couldn’t find any studies to back it up.
Tannins often take heat for causing headaches. And they do change serotonin levels, which can cause migraines. They ARE more prominent in reds than in whites, so that could explain the issue for people who have problems with red and not white. Tannins also can release fatty acids (prostaglandins) that can cause headaches and pain.
But again, this is all conjecture. We don’t have much to back this up. Still, it’s a theory posited by headache specialists, so if you think this is your problem, take some kind of headache medicine – ibuprofen, Tylenol, aspirin, whatever. Again, watch out for the interaction between the wine and the drug.
What is probably NOT causing your headache? Sulfites
Sulfites/sulfur dioxide/sulphites are a naturally occurring byproduct of fermentation and are added to wine to prevent spoilage and browning. They are also in dried fruit jam, molasses, bottled lime and lemon juice, sauerkraut, lunchmeat, and gravy. Although wine is singled out as a product that has sulfites, plenty of others have equal or higher levels.
Unless you are part of the 1-5% of the population that has a sulfite allergy, this isn’t your problem. If you have severe asthma or allergies, this could be a huge issue and you’ll know it’s a problem because the result is not a headache, but an asthma attack or something worse. If you don’t have these issues, dismiss this one. It’s better you move on and try to find the real cause.
After all this, I will repeat what I said at the beginning: the issue with a red wine headache or any wine headache is most likely dehydration or histamine issues or a combo of a few of these things. Try a few solutions and see if they work. And make sure you chug water. If it’s still an epic fail, I guess you’ll have to wait until I report back with some new, exciting finding that solves this really annoying problem!
Sun, 26 February 2017
Stellenbosch is the most prestigious, oldest wine growing region in South Africa. It's beautiful, diverse, and a bridge between Old World and New World styles. We talk about the details of the region and why it's much more obscure than it should be.
Fri, 10 February 2017
Slovenia is small but it's up and coming! It's a fascinating place with a long winemaking tradition that should pique your interest.
Before you read on, a great thanks to our sponsor: The Great Courses Plus!
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Go to www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/wine to get a free trial (the special URL lets them know you heard about it here!). As I mentioned, The Everyday Gourmet: Rediscovering the Lost Art of Cooking is mandatory for you wine education!!! Watch and get back to me!!
Slovenia's Wine Stats:
Slovenia's Wine History
3 Main Regions
Hope you enjoy this off-the-beaten trail podcast.
Tue, 17 January 2017
Simone Madden-Grey, our Down Under co-host, talks about the flavors of Shiraz & how it can't be pigeon-holed into one profile or type of wine. A refreshing look at Australia from an inside view, you'll want to run out to producers she mentions!
Direct download: 176_Ep_176__Australian_Shiraz_with_Simone_Madden-Grey.mp3
Category:wine -- posted at: 2:59pm EDT
Tue, 6 December 2016
Pfalz is the region for you if you have the question: How do I get into German wine If I hate sweet stuff?
Pfalz is the place dry wine lovers should try first in Germany! So go explore!
Tue, 1 November 2016
A poem...because Halloween is our favorite holiday!
An Ode To Halloween Candy Pairing…
Halloween was fun, now it’s day of the dead
So don’t make a mistake that will mess with your head
Although some have an empty bowl where once there were sweets
Most of us have tons of left over treats
Whether you’re stealing from your kids or eating from the work trough
We’re here to make sure your wine doesn’t taste off
Because although some wine people recommend Cab
Malbec, Pinot Noir, and Syrah in their gab
We’ll remind you once more as we did in a podcast
That you should reconsider before you reach for a glass
Dry wine is nasty with Halloween candy
Regardless of your palate, it just doesn’t taste dandy
Bitter and gross with a hollow taste,
With delicious candy, it’s such a waste
Better for you is wine that is sweet:
Port, Muscat, Late Harvest anything you really can’t beat
Ruby Port with Snickers? Late Harvest Zin with Kit Kat?
We’ve told you a hundred times, this pairing is where it’s at
Sweet Sherry or sweet Vin Santo is nice
For Starburst and Skittles don’t think twice
Although I’d save the Sauternes and Tokay
With the sweetness of the candy, you could give it a try!
We know that sweet wine may not be in your cellar
But a wine sweeter than the dessert transforms things like Cinderella
So grab a sweet wine, invite some friends by
Choose some of these pairings, just give it a try
‘Cause Halloween comes just once a year
And this volume of candy will soon disappear
Don’t mess it up with a crappy pairing
That will leave you drunk and have you swearing.
Trust us on this one, we’re not trying to be beat
For candy, Post-Halloween, you better go sweet!
Tue, 18 October 2016
There is a lot of buzz about organic and biodynamic farming but what is it? Why does it matter? Does it make sense? You judge after hearing this explanation of both practices.
For the transcript and details, go to http://winefornormalpeople.com/blog
Fri, 7 October 2016
Garnacha, or Grenache is known by many but appreciated on its own by few. This time I talk about the grape and where to get the best of it. For the transcript and more detail please go to winefornormalpeople.com/blog
Mon, 26 September 2016
In the shin of Italy's boot, Campania is the province south of Rome. The area encompasses Capri, the Amalfi Coast, Pompeii and some of the most unique, tastiest wines in the world. Want to know what regions and grapes are up and coming? Look no further.