Originally Posted by NayBreak
Probably need to be organic to avoid added sulfites for U.S. produced wines. Some are naturally occurring, but would not surprise to see the Austrians holding some sort of purity standard. Maybe @qcanoe
has some thoughts....
I'm not going to be much help here. NayBreak mentioned my name because I like good wine and long ago worked in the business. But I have never been a winemaker, wine grower, medical doctor, or biochemist.
I can say anecdotally, from having talked to lots of customers and other people over the years about many facets of wine, that getting bad headaches from even very low doses of wine is pretty common. It's much more common among women than among men, and it's much more common with red wine than with white. No one seems to know exactly what the cause is, and there is a lot of person-to-person variation that doesn't seem to fall together into a coherent picture yet. For example, one common variation is "I never used to have this problem before I had my first baby." But, last I looked, no one knows why.
There is a fair consensus that if sulfites are involved at all their role is marginal. Sulfites occur in all wines at varying levels that are not indicated by the presence of the "this wine contains sulfites" label mandatory in the U.S. This article typifies the info you will get if you Google the topic and stay away from the industrial food conspiracy theorists, who inevitably blame sulfites with no actual evidence. (I am totally behind Michael Pollan and his ilk, btw, generally speaking. But authentic wines - see below - are really very hands-off affairs compared with the vast majority of foods that we eat.)
Bottom line is that wines contain a very wide variety of trace compounds. Reds have more than whites. They're part of what makes wine smell and taste interesting and various. Most people's bodies react to some degree to some of them. Some people's bodies react to a larger degree to more of them.
I will take the opportunity to say that mass-market wines do seem to trigger more issues for more people. Not to attribute a cause without cause, as it were, but these wines see a lot more processing, tend to see more intervention with sugars and other additives, and enjoy a lot less "down time" during which their constituent elements can knit together. (If you think I've gone off my rocker with the down time thing, talk to a wine maker. Or just taste a bowl of beef stew that has been in the fridge for three days next to one that you just made. Which one is better?) Mass-produced wines are designed to provide a consistent experience every time. IMHO that's an approach that removes all the interest from wine. (If I want consistent, I'll open a bottle of Coca-Cola.) What I think of as "authentic" wines are essentially agricultural products that come from a single farm. Admittedly, in some cases it's a pretty big and high-tech farm. In most cases it's not. This is especially true in Europe, where wine is seen less as a luxury item and more as a staple of civilized living, to be sold with no more or less hoopla than a good tomato or a good loaf of bread or a good bottle of olive oil. Good authentic wines are readily available in the $12 range, so it's not like you have to pay through the nose for them. Among reds the incidence of headache may be slightly smaller among the lighter wines such as lower-end Beaujolais, lower-end Rioja, lower-end Chianti, etc., as they tend to be less concentrated and have less "stuff" in them. (Sorry for that technical term.)