Wine brings pleasure. But for some it can also prove a painful experience.

Red wine is particularly problematic for a proportion of the population, with just a few mouthfuls bringing on swift and excruciating headaches.

Now, scientists think they may finally be on to why.

In lab experiments, they’ve identified a compound in red wine that impedes the breakdown of alcohol by the liver and causes a build-up of toxic acetaldehyde in the bloodstream. Human trials are still needed for confirmation – but these are exciting findings.

In this episode, we discuss these results with the scientists behind them: Professor Andrew Waterhouse and Dr Apramita Devi from the University of California, Davis.

As for the BIG question – which red wines might be safer for sufferers – there’s good news…

The experts actually recommend cheap rather than pricey red wines. Yes, you read that right: the boffins are endorsing the bargains!

We explain why as well as providing some top tips for bargain basement reds – we also touch on the tantalising prospect of how this research may help us understand hangovers too.


  • Professor Andrew Waterhouse, Dept of Viticulture and Enology, University of California, Davis
  • Dr Apramita Devi, Dept of Viticulture and Enology, University of California, Davis
  • Susie & Peter


  • Here’s the link to the November 2023 research paper that forms the starting point for this episode: Inhibition of ALDH2 by quercetin glucuronide suggests a new hypothesis for red wine headaches
  • A plea for help: research like this costs money and yet neither governments nor big companies want to fund it (a crying shame). As a result, the team at UC Davis has launched a Crowdfunder. If you’d like to contribute, or find out more, click here: Red Wine Headaches Project
  • You can find our podcast on all major audio players: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google, Amazon, YouTube and beyond. If you’re on a mobile, the button below will redirect you automatically to this episode on an audio platform on your device. (If you’re on a PC or desktop, it will just return you to this page – in which case, get your phone out! Or find one of the above platforms on your browser.)

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The following are cheap red wines we tasted in June 2024 and recommend to tie in with the themes presented in this episode.

We do so with a slightly heavy heart given that, at these prices, it’s unlikely anyone’s making much or any money at all after tax and basic costs. And that’s not good for the sustainability of the wine business.

Nevertheless, these are good wines despite the fiercely competitive prices. Individual wine links provided.

  • Italiano Vino Rosso, 11.5%, Italy (£4.50, Tesco)
  • Toro Loco Tempranillo-Bobal Utiel-Requena 2022 DOP, 12.5%, Spain (£4.99, Aldi)
  • Castellore Primitivo di Puglia IGT 2022, 13.5%, Italy (£5.99, Aldi)
  • Vista Castelli Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2021, 12.5%, Italy (£5.50, Tesco)
  • Mimo Moutinho Dão DOC 2021, 13%, Portugal (£6.49, Aldi)

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This transcript is AI generated. it’s not perfect.

Susie: Hello and welcome to Wine Blast with me, Susie Barrie and my husband and fellow Master of Wine, Peter Richards. And in this episode, we’re going to be speaking very gently and soothingly and trying not to shout because we are touching on the painful and sometimes contentious issue of red Wine head headaches.

Peter: You’ve got me wondering now whether there’s such a thing as Wine podcast headaches.

Susie: Or any podcast headaches…

Peter: Does that relate to the quality of the content, or the tone of voice, or the editing values, or the nature of the wines consumed in said podcast. It’s a whole field of potential research right there.

Susie: There we go.

Peter: But that’s not our focus.

Susie: Not today. Not today.

Peter: We want to put the very specific problem of red Wine headaches under the microscope, discussing some fascinating new research with the scientists behind it, identifying a potential culprit and digging into some potential implications and solutions.

Susie: It’s true. Crime meets Wine. We have the offence, the headache, we may have the offender. We’ll come onto that. but the really interesting bit is the fascinating stuff this all throws up. Here’s a taster, of what’s to come.

Andrew Waterhouse: This particular person loved red Wine, but she said it was so disappointing, every time she bought a very expensive cabernet, she had to cook with it because she couldn’t drink it. She, said, it’s very sad to be using your very best wine for cooking. My recommendation has been that you should look at less expensive red wines.

Apramita Devi: When the research came out and we started getting this huge number of emails and I was like, oh, my God, how many people are suffering from this issue? And, like, so. So, like, we feel happy when your research has that impact in the outside world and people can relate with it.

Peter: Professor Andrew Waterhouse and doctor Apramita Devi from the department of Viticulture and enology at the University of California, Davis. There. Gosh, those are long titles and whatnot. we’ll, be discussing their research into red Wine headaches and touching on intriguing related themes such as, the implications for winemakers and Wine drinkers all around the world, the role of food funding challenges, and the tantalising potential for this work to shed new light on hangovers. plus, whisper it. But might cheap red Wine be the answer?

Susie: Can’t wait to dive into that. But read into this what you will. We will be tasting and recommending some great value red wines towards the end of the show. Doctor’s orders. So lots to be getting on with. Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

The health implications of wine are a fascinating topic

Peter: Yeah, good idea, good idea. The health implications of Wine is a fascinating topic. put simply, we don’t know enough and that’s frustrating. Wine is possibly one of the most complex substances we eat or drink, but there’s a lack of ambitious, well funded research in this area. What this means is when credible new findings do come along, it’s well worth sitting up and taking notice.

Susie: And we do love dipping into this theme, don’t we? On Wine blasting, we discussed the potential risks of biogenic amines in wines in the undeserved hangover back in season two. And we talked about Wine and the gut microbiome with Professor Tim Spector in season four. So do cheque those out. But then, in November 2023, some new research was published in the journal Scientific Reports proposing a new hypothesis to explain red wine headaches.

Peter: at which point our ears pricked up. we did touch on this briefly on our, wines of the year show late last year, but the more we looked into this, the more we realised we needed to explore this in proper depth, didn’t we? Because the potential implications are quite wide reaching.

Susie: Yep. So I think we need to tackle this step by step.

37% of patients blame booze for triggering headaches, according to research

So, first up, the extent of the problem. Apparently, headaches affect around 16% of the world’s population daily and migraines are actually a major cause of disability. Alcoholic drinks are the most common dietary component associated with headaches. You know, 37% of patients blame booze for triggering them. And crucially, red Wine is one of the worst offenders in this context and provokes headaches in people who can drink other booze without issues.

Peter: Now, Doctor Morris Levin is professor of neurology and the director of the headache centre at the University of California, St Francisco. Ah. And was the third co author of this research we’re discussing alongside Professor Waterhouse and doctor Devi he told me it’s hard to know how many people actually suffer from red Wine headache, but about 25% of people who suffer from migraines get red Wine headaches. and he said there are probably other non migraine sufferers who get red Wine headaches as well. Either way, we’re not talking insignificant numbers here, we’re talking about


Peter: millions of people who suffer from red Wine headaches.

Susie: Now, what causes this issue and how that works has so far remained elusive. You know, people have blamed sulfites, biogenic amines, phenolics and tannins. But as the researchers say in their paper, and I quote, no chemical constituent has been clearly implicated as the primary trigger of red Wine headache. Nor has a mechanism for eliciting the headache been proposed.

Peter: But now we may be on the verge of a breakthrough.

Susie: We may indeed.

Red wine headaches may be caused by buildup of toxic acetaldehyde in blood

Peter: but before we come on to that, though, we need to talk about alcohol.

Susie: Do we?

Peter: We do. If I had a penny for every time I’d heard that in my, particularly in my school career.

Susie: Anyway, let’s talk about alcohol.

Peter: So when we drink alcohol, or ethanol, to be more precise, our body breaks it down. Okay? The liver has two enzymes to do this, and it’s a two step process. The first enzyme is alcohol dehydrogenase, which converts the ethanol into acetaldehyde.

Susie: Now, acetaldehyde is definitely a name to remember in this context. it’s a key player. You could even call it the villain of the piece, but that might be a bit harsh. either way, acetaldehyde is nasty stuff. It’s very toxic, also carcinogenic. It messes with your body and your mind, so your body wants to get rid of it. And this is where the second enzyme comes in. Acetaldehyde dehydrogenase, or ALDH, converts the acetaldehyde into acetate, which is non toxic and much friendlier. So disaster averted. Phew. so we can keep calm and carry on, or carry on drinking.

Peter: Indeed, sort of. Because, and this is the problem in some people, this process doesn’t work properly. for example, it’s estimated that around 40%, 40% of people of East Asian descent, so including Han Chinese, Japanese and Korean, have a defective variant of this ALDH enzyme. this means that second step of this process, the breakdown of toxic acetaldehyde into harmless acetate, is impaired. This causes a buildup of acetaldehyde in the blood, which leads to facial flushing, heart palpitations, nausea and headaches.

Susie: And this phenomenon, allied to some other interesting research on red Wine compounds, was the inspiration for the idea behind this study. Could it be that one compound in red Wine was provoking exactly this effect and causing a buildup of toxic acetaldehyde in people who suffer from red Wine headaches?

Peter: Yeah. So to explain, you know, in other words, there’s a lot going on here. Some people, some people, for genetic reasons, have a defective enzyme, which means they can’t process alcohol properly in their bodies. But some other people can drink alcohol. Fine, no problems. It’s just red Wine that causes these issues or headaches. So could there be something in red Wine they could identify as the culprit?

Susie: Supposed doctoral researcher doctor Apramita Devi and Professor Andrew Waterhouse put their heads together and designed some experiments, they had initially hoped to do it in vivo or human trials, but their funding wouldn’t stretch that far. And something we’ll come back to. So they limited themselves to in vitro trials, lab based, you know, test tube stuff. And what they found was intriguing.

Peter: Yeah. So at this point, we should bring in Andy Waterhouse, professor emeritus of oenology at UC Davis, but who describes himself, quite humbly, as a Wine chemist. I asked him first about the symptoms we’re talking about here.

Andrew Waterhouse: We’re talking about severe headaches, not mild headaches, and headaches that occur very shortly after drinking red Wine. But those headaches don’t occur in these particular people, don’t occur after consuming white Wine or other alcoholic beverages. So the symptoms appear uniquely only after consuming red Wine. Now, this is different from a hangover, which may occur hours later or even the next morning, these, occurring within, say, a half hour of consuming red Wine.

Peter: So in terms of quantity, I mean.

Peter: Is there, how much do you have.

Peter: To drink before getting these adverse effects?

Andrew Waterhouse: What I’ve heard is, about a half a glass of red Wine, which, of course, is a very indistinct amount, but, it’s not a large quantity.

Peter: Yeah, that’s not very much at all, is it? so now let’s get on to the why, why are these bad things happening? These are these adverse health effects happening to people?

Andrew Waterhouse: Well, to clarify, there’s been many speculative propositions, made over the years. the ones that are most commonly voiced


Andrew Waterhouse: are sulfites, biogenic amines, or tannin. And the key is that all those have been proposed without any specific mechanistic explanation. So what we’ve discovered is that there’s something in red Wine, specifically red Wine, which inhibits the metabolism of alcohol. This leads to the accumulation of the blood of acetaldehyde. And acetaldehyde is what’s inducing the headache.

Peter: So tell me about this substance that is causing all the problems.

Andrew Waterhouse: So the substance is a metabolite of quercetin. so quercetin in various forms is produced by grapes in response to sunlight. We call it, like, sunscreen for grapes. And there’s now many experiments showing that the amount of quercetin is directly related to sun exposure. If you carefully keep the grapes in total darkness, the levels will, in fact, be zero. And levels can vary in Wine, by five fold. So between your sort of inexpensive wines, where the grapes don’t see a lot of sunlight, to those that get a lot of sun exposure, there’s a huge range and it’s very unusual to have such a large discrepancy between two types of Wine of, any particular substance. So when you consume anything with quercetin, your body converts it to quercetin glucuronide. And that seems to be a tremendously effective inhibitor of the enzyme that breaks down acetaldehyde.

Peter: Right. So you’ve got this quercetin coming into your body at the same time as the ethanol, right. Your body converts it to this substance which inhibits the breakdown of alcohol, which your body would be doing normally. And it gets stuck with all this acetaldehyde in your blood, which is horrifically inflammatory and horrible.

Andrew Waterhouse: Exactly. It causes inflammation lots of places. And one of the things it will do is induce a headache. One of the clues that led us to this is that there’s certain population of people who, when they consume alcohol, flush. And that flushing is a result of poor breakdown of acetaldehyde. So those people have an enzyme that’s supposed to break down acid aldehyde as part of alcohol metabolism. But it doesn’t work very well. One of the symptoms they experience is, in fact, headache. and in general, people, who are really severely affected by this can’t drink at all. They feel so bad that they just don’t drink. So looking at that and realising that they experienced headaches, I investigated, is there anything in Wine that could inhibit that enzyme? And it turns out that quercetin does and this metabolite is even more effective.

Peter: So then the question becomes, why does this seem to affect certain people and not others?

Andrew Waterhouse: That’s a really good question.

Peter: And we don’t know.

Andrew Waterhouse: We don’t have an answer. No. I mean, I think that you could, imagine there’s a couple possible reasons. One is that the enzyme that this population has is particularly sensitive to this metabolite. it could be that they’re more sensitive to acetaldehyde but it’ll take some experimentation to sort through these various possibilities.

Susie: So just a point. Pause there a second. It sounds like we’ve been drinking sunscreen. Isn’t that the problem? I mean, you know, drinking sunscreen is never good for anybody.

Peter: Sunscreen for grapes doesn’t sound the most appetising, does it?

Susie: No, no.

Peter: Yes, I agree.

Susie: But joking aside, though, this quercetin is actually a phenolic compound or flavonoid. And flavonoids are, generally thought to be quite good for us, you know, as antioxidants, scavenging harmful free radicals and all of that. But the point is, when we ingest quercetin. Quercetin, our bodies turn it into quercetin glucuronide. And in some people, this quercetin glucuronide prevents their body breaking down acetaldehyde. And that’s when bad things happen.

Peter: Exactly, exactly. So quercetin by itself or quercetin glucuronide isn’t necessarily bad. It’s probably quite good for us, as you say. the problem comes in some people, and as Andy said, we don’t really know why some people are more affected yet. The problem happens in some people when the body ingests quercetin along with alcohol. That’s the key dynamic metric here, because quercetin glucuronide inhibits this specific enzyme, that would otherwise break down the toxic byproduct of alcohol.

Susie: I mean, that’s quite a complex mechanism. I mean, how on earth did they hit upon that in their research?

Peter: That’s a really good question. So, I asked doctor Apramita Devi that, she actually conducted all the experiments. she said she was aware of one paper that suggested quercetin could inhibit a similar enzyme to the one we’re talking about here. So, you know, given their lab is a phenolics lab, she assembled tonnes of test tubes


Peter: and enzyme kits in the chemical form of various phenolics. And she just went for it, you know, to see if she could find the compound that was causing the level of enzyme inhibition that would lead to a severe reaction, like red Wine headache.

Apramita Devi: So I started screening every kind of phenolics possible. So I started testing, testing, and then we found that, oh, quercetin does, but it does not inhibit that much. So we went to the next step. like, is it just quercetin or something else is happening? So the next step went is, looking into the metabolism, quercetin in body to understand what happens to quercetin when you drink it or eat it. So it doesn’t remain as quercetin, it change its form into quercetin three glucuronide. So we’re like, okay, so it’s not just quercetin, it changes. So why don’t we pick up this second form and see it? And we just took that second form, quercetin three gluconate. Boom, we got a lot of innovation.

Peter: So what was it? Quite a spectacular result. I mean, was it something that was.

Apramita Devi: Yeah, like, when we were doing quercetin, we were getting like 20%, 25% inhibition of the enzyme. So we were not sure, like, is it good enough to do a headache, or like accumulate enough acetaldehyde that you end up with might be ending up. So we are not very happy with this 20-25% But then when we started looking into this glucuronide, it went almost up to 80%, which is like almost 80% of your enzyme at that point of time is not working and you are accumulating lot of acetaldehyde. So it’s, obviously it’s, in a test tube, in a body, it will be very different because you have a lot of other things going on. But 80% in test tube is a good starting point. I feel.

Susie: We’Re going to come back to human trials in a bit. But that’s quite a eureka moment she’s describing, isn’t it? So it’s not really the quercetin that’s inhibiting this enzyme. It’s the quercetin glucuronide or quercetin three glucuronide that your body produces. And if it’s stopping the enzyme working to the tune of 80%, that really is significant.

Peter: It’s a proper blocker. 80%, that’s a lot. That’s the majority, isn’t it? And it’s a very significant finding, as you say. Obviously, the mechanism still needs to be studied in human trials because things are very different in the body to in the test tube. But, you know, if this is proven, then it opens up a whole new field of understanding and hopefully it will be a big help for people who suffer from this, you know, really painful issue.

Susie: Okay, so on that eureka moment, I think we should take a breath. Coming up, we have some rather juicy material, including a major justification for buying cheap red Wine. music to everyone’s ears when money seems to be shorter than ever right now. And, our, top tips for the kind of cheap red wines to buy. To recap, so far, scientists have identified a substance in red Wine that may be causing red Wine headaches. Namely quercetin, or more accurately, its metabolite, quercetin glucoronide. Quercetin is a flavonoid, a, phenolic compound that’s produced when grapes are exposed to sunlight. And its concentrations in Wine can vary significantly. And this opens up another line of questioning.

Peter: precisely, one we definitely wanted to get into. So, Andy Waterhouse. Professor Andrew Waterhouse mentioned that wines can vary significantly in their quercetin levels. You know, some wines can have up to five times as much as others. And one of the key drivers here is sun exposure, because grapes produce quercetin in response to sunlight. So I asked Andy Waterhouse, if someone does suffer from these red Wine headaches, but they really want to drink some red Wine, which wines would be safest to drink?

Andrew Waterhouse: Yes, that’s a very good question. unfortunately for Wine consumers, there’s not ready data about the level of these substances in Wine. in fact, I’ve made inquiries with a number of people and many of the Wine companies don’t track this data either. It just hasn’t been an issue up until now. if. I suppose if some consumers clamour for the information, it will be made available. And it’s easy to measure. I mean, relatively easy to measure. It’s fairly expensive in terms of analysis, but the methodology is very well known and any good laboratory could do it, but, that information is just not available. In general, what we can say from a general perspective is that inexpensive, red wines generally come from very large grapevines. So in order to make an inexpensive wine, you have to have a productive vineyard. So, for instance, you might harvest about


Andrew Waterhouse: ten to 15 tonnes of grapes from a productive vineyard. To achieve that level of production, you have to have a very large grapevine, which means that the grapes themselves will be heavily shaded by the vine itself. Whereas if you’re making very expensive wine, and typically, this is what happens, you might notice this when you visit famous vineyards, that the vines are fairly small and you can see the grapes, they’re sitting there right in front of you, and that if you can see them, then they’re getting much more sun exposure. So, given that general rule, my recommendation has been that you should look at less expensive red wines, which for Wine lovers, may m be a somewhat, disappointing.

Peter: Or you could say it the other way and say it’s great. You’re recommending cheaper reds, good value reds, as a way of avoiding red Wine headaches.

Andrew Waterhouse: Yes. So they can try that. It might be successful. A few people have mentioned to me that this does work for them.

Peter: That’s really interesting. I suppose, alternatively, you could look at areas which maybe get less sunlight, less aggressive sun exposure, or where winemakers or viticulturists tend to leave the grapes a bit more shaded.

Apramita Devi: Yeah.

Andrew Waterhouse: So one person contacted me. I mean, I got many people contacting me and they, you know, they were asking for advice and I gave them that advice and they said, yes, they, in fact, knew that already. And this particular person loved red Wine. But she said it was so disappointing every time she bought a very expensive cabernet. She had to cook with it because she couldn’t drink it. she said, it’s very sad to be using your very best line for cooking!

Peter: but you make good gravy, I suppose. That’s great. The answer is cheap red in some instances. Alternatively, I suppose you could say it’s safer to drink white.

Andrew Waterhouse: It’s perfectly safe to drink white, because the level of these substances would be very low. The only exception would be a skin contact white. It could be levels. Of course, there’s no data on this, but in theory, if you made an orange Wine, or sometimes they’re referred to as skin contact whites, there would be an opportunity to extract some of this quercetin into the Wine.

Peter: Yeah.

Peter: And I suppose rose, similar sort of, to orange Wine in that sense, perhaps?

Andrew Waterhouse: No, not unless it’s a very dark rose. Rose are made with very, very limited skin contact, so the tiny amount of pink colour is the easiest. So that substance is the easiest thing to remove from the skin. The, quercetin would come later.

Peter: So rose is actually, if you, if you like red, but you do get these headaches, rose might actually be a good option, then.

Andrew Waterhouse: Oh, yes, yes, definitely.

Susie: Yet another reason why drinking rose is a good idea.

Peter: Do we need any more? I mean, we’ve already got many, so many being one of them.

Susie: But, you know, as for the gravy, I think that sounds like pretty tasty gravy, doesn’t it?

Peter: Oh, I tell you what.

Susie: But, anyway. No, to be serious, what Professor Waterhouse is saying, as far as I can understand it, is that for those who suffer from red Wine headaches, white and rose are good options. Yes, but if you really can’t do without red, then the best option is a cheap red, because it will likely have been made from high yielding vines. Cheap red, that’s the way forward.

Andrew Waterhouse: Yeah.

Susie: And to. To ripen a big crop off each vine, you’ll need a lot of grapes, so some will inevitably be shaded in the bunches. Plus you need a lot of photosynthesis going on. So lots of leaf cover also means further shading, which in turn means less sunlight exposure for the grapes. Hence less quercetin, meaning less enzymatic inhibition, meaning less acetaldehyde buildup.

Peter: Bingo. Yeah, absolutely spot on. whereas, to draw the comparison, your fancy pants, big money reds, you know, will tend to have very neat, trimmed canopies and small amounts of grapes, which are often exposed to the sun. Very photogenically. Of course, this isn’t always the case. These are all generalisations, but it’s an interesting point.

Susie: Probably more likely.

Peter: And these, you know, premium grapes also m tend to be macerated for longer in the Djuce, again upping the quercetin content. on that note, actually, as he said, orange wines or skin contact whites often, have considerably more phenolics extracted from them than whites or rose because they tend to spend longer in contact with the skin. Exactly. But, equally, some orange whites have much more skin contact than others. So it’s really hard to generalise. And this is a really important point. This is all relative.

Susie: I think I’m hearing a qualifier coming on here.

Peter: Well, you know, I do want to say professor water was quite clear that, you know, while lots of red Wine headache sufferers told him that cheaper wines were less troublesome for them. It’s hard to generalise about which wines would be safer for people who do get these headaches, you know. For example, one producer of cheap reds may expose his grapes to sunlight more than his neighbour, because he has a very specific type of training or trellising for his grapes or whatever.


Peter: or the winemaking methods may favour higher levels of quercetin because the length of time he leaves his red wines macerating on the skins or the way the wines are stabilised or fined or ate or whatever, all this has an impact. So there are so many variables.

Susie: And I should add, it’s hard to predict from colour as well, isn’t it? For instance, I’ve heard grapes like pinot noir and nebbiola, which tend to produce fairly pale wines, can be quite high in quercetin, whereas naturally more deeply coloured grapes like tannet and cabernet sauvignon can be quite low. It’s quite counterintuitive, anyway. But anyway, I guess the one thing that would help us is having some sort of reliable measurement of quercetin levels in the wines themselves. And as antine mentioned, this is pretty straightforward to do. You know, it doesn’t sound cheap, but if people start asking for it and it became a selling point.

Peter: Yeah, but I think, you know, we then get into all kinds of legal and regulatory issues, though. You know, it’s generally not allowed for wines to make health claims, so, you know, how could that be done? But, you know, I do agree, you know, you get the sense there is something that can be done both by researchers, but also, you know, by proactive Wine producers in this space, particularly given it’s such a major issue for so many people.

Susie: Yeah, I mean, I guess it’s important to see what comes out of the human trials and go from there. Because all of this is still subject to confirmation in that sense.

Peter: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So just to finish off on that point, Andy and a promise had hoped to do human trials, but couldn’t get the funding. they actually raised the money for their research by crowdfunding. Andy’s logic was that if the government and Wine companies aren’t keen to fund this kind of research, which apparently they aren’t, which is a massive scandal, in my view. I think it’s crazy, maybe then it should be funded by those who stood to benefit the most from it. That is, wine drinkers. but they only managed to get a fraction of what they were hoping for. I think it was about $5,000 rather than 50,000. so they just opted to do the in vitro trial, in the first instance.

Susie: But there are human trials following on from their initial findings now, aren’t they?

Peter: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So I asked Andy about this and he said the funding for these is coming from a foundation affiliated with the Wine Spectator publishing, group. I don’t know if the funding has materialised because of how promising the results of the initial study were. maybe, maybe. But either way, you know, I also asked a prime minister, about the nature of these human trials. Apparently they will be overseen by Morris Levin, he of the headache centre at the University of California, St Francisco, who we’ve already name checked. and this is what she said about the trials.

Apramita Devi: So it’s done by our collaborator in uC, St Francisco in a headache centre. So he have, these patients who come often to him with this complaint of red Wine headache. So he’ll be selecting people who know what red Wine headache is or who have experienced a red Wine headache. So our initial study will be, about like providing them with two wines, which have, one of them will be high in quercetin and other will be like, low in quercetin. And then we give them these wines in a controlled setup and then they have to just report that which Wine gave them headache. So first step is just to know the response of them with a particular kind of Wine. So that’s the first trial.

Peter: and so these are people who.

Peter: Already experience issues with red Wine headaches. You know, that they have an issue.

Apramita Devi: So.

Peter: But that’s not going to be. I mean, I imagine that might be quite hard getting the volunteers know because that’s going to be potentially quite a painful experience for them.

Apramita Devi: Yeah, but those who already getting that pain, they want to know, like what is causing them. So it’s kind of, give them, information. Like, okay, this is the reason. So they can have more informed choices about what kind of Wine they take, what not. So they are, anyway, they are getting when they are that pain. So they want to kind of sort it out. So, so, yeah, so they are ready to be part of this, I think, to sort that problem out.

Susie: That’s altruism for you, isn’t it? Sacrificing yourself for the good of humanities drinkers.

Peter: Yeah, I mean, you know, we don’t, we’re lucky we don’t suffer from red Wine headache, do we? But you know. No, you know, if we did, would we be first in line to volunteer?

Susie: I think we’d have to be sure.

Peter: I’d like to think we would be.

Susie: In our interest, frankly.

Peter: But still, you know, the big point is for those people who are going to volunteer, who are volunteering. Good on you. Yeah, good on you. That’s fantastic. Anyway, so Andy Waterhouse said the plan is to start trials this summer. I also asked doctor Levin, who confirmed the trials will be starting soon, with the results being published, ideally mid 2025, something like that. So we’ve got time.

Susie: So I guess we’ll need a follow up episode then, won’t we?

Peter: We absolutely will. Good. That’s future promotion of the podcast. Yes. I love where you are with that. Anyway, Doctor Lewin also confirmed, that the aim of the trials was to see whether wines with high quercetin levels predictably led to headache in people prone to red Wine headaches. we’ve got the theory now we need the real world proof.


Peter: That’s the key thing. So, they’re also hoping to shed light on what makes certain people susceptible to this issue and not others. And they want to learn a bit more about the nature of these headaches, particularly, particularly migraines.

Susie: I mean, there are still quite a lot of questions to be answered, aren’t there? Like why some people suffer and others not is a key one, as you said. But then there are questions like, you know, can people develop this issue as they get older, you know, or do other factors play a part, like medication or hormonal fluctuations or state of gut or your liver health?

Peter: Yeah, we get asked. I mean, I’m sure every Wine person does, but we get asked by so many people on so many different levels. There’s so many questions out there. So, you know, and everyone’s different. Everyone’s different. I think they’re going to need a bigger research budget, aren’t they? I think they see where I’m coming to this. And, actually, on that note, pravita did say a couple of things that are relevant, in this regard. Firstly, there’s a possibility that biogenic amines may be responsible for some adverse reactions in Wine. But the mechanism isn’t very clear, so that would be worth studying separately.

Susie: I think we just went up further.

Peter: It did.

Peter: We’re very good at adding to budget.

Susie: Adding to budget, then spending money.

Peter: Apramita also dangled a big carrot by mentioning in passing that they’re hoping their further research might shed some light on hangovers.

Susie: You mean their research into things like Quercetin?

Peter: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. you know, they don’t know, but I think they have a hunch these things might be linked to hangovers.

Susie: Sort of makes sense.

Peter: The Prometheus said that there’s a huge line of research possibly in this thing. The only issue is funding.

Susie: Where do we sign up? I mean, if they can help us avoid hangovers. You know, we may not get red Wine headaches, but a hangover? Yep. We definitely do. And that’s a holy grail, isn’t it? Sorting that one out?

Peter: You know, I am so there. And, ah, it’s funny you said you’d be keen to sign up because, you know, a parameter did send me a link to their crowdfunding page. You can put your money where your mouth.

Susie: Is she paying you?

Peter: The opportunity is there. If you want to support proper Wine research, that could help change things for the better. I’ll put that link in the show notes.

Susie: But that’s a big thing, hangovers, isn’t it?

Peter: Yeah. Though I should add that the promise was very keen to stress. They don’t want to make big claims at such an early stage. They might find things. They might not. And you don’t want to say to people, crowdfund us, we’ll, eliminate hangovers forever. That’s not going to happen. And people may get disappointed. And before we know it, there’ll be angry mobs with pitchforks, flamethrowers at the gates of the lab.

Susie: Talking of forks, one thing that has been going around in my mind is gravy, gravy the way my mind works. Because there is a link with food in all of this, isn’t there?

Peter: yeah.

Peter: This is interesting, isn’t it?

Susie: Yeah.

Peter: So, quercetin isn’t just found in grapes. It’s found in all kinds of fruit and veg and herbs and spices, from berries to broccoli, cherries, citrus fruits, onions, capers green tea, cocoa powder, kale, dill, coriander, lettuce, tomatoes. I could go on.

Susie: You could. Shall I stop you and just say it’s sold as a food supplement, isn’t it, that we just probably combine everything?

Peter: Yeah, absolutely. If you eat these foods or the supplements, you get the question. And, that’s all good. And this is the important bit. There’s no alcohol to cause the adverse reactions when you’re talking about food. Remember quercetin Glucuronide inhibits the breakdown of acetaldehyde, which comes from alcohol. That’s when the headaches occur.

Susie: So in the gravy example, that’s okay, because the alcohol would presumably be boiled off in the gravy.

Peter: Exactly. But there’s another dynamic to bear in mind here that’s worth throwing in. Remember we said white Wine or rose Wine would be okay for red Wine headache sufferers?

Susie: Yeah.

Peter: Well, that’s not totally true, because if you’re drinking, and this is a hypothesis, but if you’re drinking white Wine, you’ve got alcohol, right?

Susie: Yeah.

Peter: The white Wine might not have the quercetin in, but you see where I’m going here.

Susie: I do.

Peter: If you’re drinking it with a plate of food, which is likely full of quercetin. Exactly. So, you know, a fresh kale and tomato salad with onions and capers and broccoli, that kind of thing. It’s not something I would ever, it’s not a recipe knowingly myself, I have to say. But let’s just, for the sake of arguing, let’s say I’ve gone on a health kick. That’s what I’m eating. It wouldn’t be particularly nice, but I get red Wine headaches and I was drinking it with white Wine. You could still get the red Wine.

Susie: Headache, except it’s not really a red Wine headache, is it?

Peter: Exactly.

Susie: Or is it?

Peter: Precisely.

Susie: Anyway, before my head starts to spin or even ache, I think we should come on to our recommendations, shouldn’t we? Let’s just.

Peter: Yeah, okay. Let’s get things spinning in another way.

We decided to hunt around with some inexpensive reds that punched well above their weight

so, given we have it on very good authority that a less expensive red Wine might be the best option for red Wine headache sufferers, we decided to hunt around with some very inexpensive reds that punched well above their weight. and so we went to two of the UK’s biggest supermarkets and we found some pretty interesting things.

Susie: We also wanted to look at areas or regions which maybe get slightly less sun exposure. I think, given this research was done in California, their frames of reference to a certain extent were Napa


Susie: Valley at the top end for Cabernet and then maybe big volume Central Valley blends for the inexpensive stuff. We want to look a bit more to Europe to look at the. The cheaper end of the spectrum here.

Peter: Yeah. So it’s not super easy because, you know, most of the sort of cheap, cheap and cheerful blends from, Europe are in the warmer areas. But, you know, anyway, we lined up a selection of. Of cheap reds, some of which, it has to be said, were pretty diabolical.

Susie: we are talking, mentioning no names.

Peter: Thin, weedy, dilute, sickly, cloying in some instances, you know, life’s too short kind of wines.

Susie: Yeah, yeah. I mean, just that unbalanced, basically, and bad. But then there were some that really impressed us, even if we didn’t always agree, which I’m sure everybody would expect from us. and I have to say many of these wines did leave us wondering if anyone was actually making any money on them after tax and basic costs. but anyway, putting such reservations temporarily to one side. My first pick was the cheapest, wasn’t it? Who’d have ever thought that? it was the Italiano vino rosso at, four pounds 50 pence from Tesco.

Peter: You make it sound so romantic for a second.

Susie: It’s so basic, it doesn’t even have a vintage.

Peter: No. And just looking at it now, I mean.

Susie: Yeah, yeah. I mean it’s a blend of sangiovese in Montepulciano and merlot.

Peter: Apparently you can glamorise it all you like. I mean, you said it looked like cooking work.

Susie: Well, it does. It absolutely does. The bottle and in the glass, you know, it’s pale and you think it’s going to taste of nothing. But actually it’s a steal. I was so surprised. I mean, maybe, you know, the fact it looked so sort of unpromising, was, you know, a good thing. But it had lovely aromas of red fruit and wild herbs and then, you know, a refreshing, kind of slightly crunchy palate feel with some cherry flavours. What, it’s not, it’s not chewy or drying or sickly like so many wines at this price. You know, it’s just upbeat and simple. Definitely light bodied. But it’s sort of unpretentious in a way that inexpensive italian wines can be. You know, I’d rather have this than so many of those sort of overcooked blockbuster reds out there. You know, you could just knock this back.

Peter: Yeah. Actually, you know, Tagliano, a prometheus did mention that italian wines had come up in the correspondence, that they’d received, you know, about which wines did work for some red Wine headache sufferers. So that did guide our sort of selection slightly. anyway, I see your, vino cipo Italiano, and I raise you a toro loco, a mad bull tempranillo bobal 2022 from Utiel Requena in Spain. This is all of four pounds, 99 pence at Aldi. And it.

Susie: How expensive is that?

Peter: Well, you know, it’s a proper little fruit bomb bursting with berries and cherries. It’s. It’s juicy and it’s fruity and, you know, yeah, it’s a bit simple, but it’s not confected or stewed like you were saying. It’s just fun and refreshing. It’s, you know, it’s a perfect coffee. It’s got a bit of spanish swagger to it.

Susie: You’re right. but I’m going to stick with Italy, actually, and I’m going to go up a tiny bit in price with our, next Wine. I’ve got the Castelore Primitivo di Puglia 2022, which is a whole whopping 5.99 at Aldi. Blowing a budget here, I really am. You’re worth it, darling. It’s in a very smart bottle, actually, which is quite surprising. And there’s so much wine for the price, you know, lots of heady raisin, BlackBerry fruit. It’s rich and ripe and succulent. I mean, maybe not the most subtle or elegant, but, you know, at this price, really impressive. It’s got some fine, Chalky Tannin. I definitely recommend this for anyone who wants to sort of impress their friends on a budget. The only thing I would say is that we are obviously down in Puglia in southern Italy, so perhaps a bit more sunshine actually here than is absolutely ideal for those lower question levels.

Peter: It does look very smart. as you say. I’ve got another italian here, the, vista castelli montepulciano d’abruzzo, 2021, which is five pounds 50 pence at Tesco, you know, it’s just classic italian stuff, really. Red cherries and herbal notes. I think multiple channel. Generally speaking, it’s a good value option to go for a lot of time from a trusted retailer. You know, like I say, juicy, sort of tangy palate that works really well. Probably works best with food, to offset, you know, it’s quite sort of firm. I don’t know, spag bowl, whatever.

Susie: Yeah, and one final recommendation, then. That’s not from M Spain, not from Italy. It’s from Portugal. It’s the Mimo Mutino Dao 2021. And that is 6.49 at Aldi. And you’ve got a lot of Wine here, lots of fruit, a bit of spice, a bit of florality. it’s looking a bit mature now, but again, lots of Wine for the price and something a bit different, I think, you know, to have with your Tuesday Nyetimber bangers and mash.

Peter: So there we have it. some great value, inexpensive red wines for you, whether you’re a red Wine headache sufferer or not. All great ammunition for that perfect Tuesday night in.


Susie: By way of closing summary, red Wine headaches are a serious issue for many people. But as a result of some exciting recent research at UC Davis in California, we may be closer to identifying a cause. Quercetin, a natural flavonoid found in grapes, may be preventing the breakdown of alcohol in the body and causing a toxic acetaldehyde buildup, resulting in headaches, as well as other painful symptoms. Human trials are needed to confirm this hypothesis, with results expected mid 2025. In the meantime, experts suggest inexpensive red wines may offer the best chance of avoiding headaches. That’s if you don’t fancy white or rose, though you may also need to be Wharie of the food you’re eating.

Peter: There’s, also the potential for this research to shed light on hangovers, which is a tantalising prospect. but funding is a perennial challenge, so it would be good to see more support in that regard. this is really important work in terms of getting to grips with an issue that has been a thorn in the side of humanity for thousands of years.

Susie: And on that note, I know we’re nearly out of time, but you did ask both Andy and Apramita how they felt about their exciting findings, didn’t you?

Peter: Well remembered. Yeah, I mostly certainly did. and here’s what they said.

Andrew Waterhouse: Well, that’s the real excitement of science, is discovering, making a discovery, finding out what makes something tick. so really that’s the fun part.

Apramita Devi: When I started this work, I was not that I didn’t know that this will be a problem for so many of, lot of people. I started like, okay, maybe a fraction of people getting affected with these, like, people have much bigger issues. So. But when the research came out and we started getting this huge number of emails, people asking which point to ring, what to ring, and I was like, oh, my God, how many people are suffering from this issue? And like, how many people. And then I realised, okay, we, like, I know it’s a test tube study, but like, it has an impact and we will get more excited about. So till then we were like, how to do clinical trial and we were trying kind of thing, but after that we got that push, like, okay, we need to do it. Whether it starts with a small clinical trial, it’s okay, but we need to do that. So, like, we feel happy when you, your research has that impact outside, in the outside world and people can relate with it. So that’s the real research.

Peter: Well, it’s absolutely fantastic. Congratulations on your excellent work. you know, here’s raising a glass to you. But Apramita, thank you very much indeed.

Apramita Devi: Thank you, Peter. Thank you for making us part of this show and bringing the research to more people out there.

Susie: So there we go. Here’s to the power of research and making new discoveries. Our thanks to Professor Andrew Waterhouse, Doctor Apramita Devi and Doctor Morris Levin. And thanks to you for listening. Until next time, cheers!