Monday, May 25, 2009

Hangover, hungover

Does the severity or frequency of a hangover differ, depending on the wine you drink? I increasingly find that certain wines cause stiffer hangovers than others, and alcohol is only part of the reason.

Take, for example, riesling. The rieslings I've been drinking the most lately are German and Niagara, all made in a classical style of between 8-11% alcohol. I can drink as many glasses as I'd like to, without fear - no doubt because of the lower alcohol, but also because of the absence of any oak in the wine.

Same for pinot noir and chardonnay, both Burgundy and Niagara. Here, oak is present, but often restrained - there is very little new oak used.

What I'm trying to articulate is that oak makes a big difference (to me) on whether I'm going to wake up with a hangover or not. I'm finding these big, internationally-styled wines are the main culprit - lots of jammy fruit, and absolutely bombarded with oak and micro-oxygenation. Often at 14.5% alcohol and higher, these wines make you want to lie down after 2 or 3 glasses, and make you want to keep lying down when you wake up.

This goes for wines from Old and New World. The Chants de Faizeau I drank this past weekend gave me a raging headache when I woke up. I love wine, but I love drinking it more, and I refuse to drink anything that makes me feel like an alcoholic when I wake up.

This is a problem. There's something to be said about restrained, elegant wines that don't slap you in the face, but gently caress and whisper into your ear.


  1. Not sure if this is true or not, but found it online anyway. SourceWine - a bad harvest
    If you are drinking wine that comes from a country where a small change in the climate can make a big difference to the quality of wine, eg France, Germany, New Zealand, then in a bad season the wine contains many more substances that cause hangovers.

    Wine - drinking it too young
    Almost all red wines and chardonnay are matured in oak barrels so that they will keep and improve. If you drink this wine younger than three years there will be a higher level of nasties that can cause hangovers. If left to mature these nasties change to neutral substances and don't cause hangovers. As a rule of thumb wine stored in oak barrels for six months should be acceptable to drink within the first year. If the wine is stored for twelve months or more in oak barrels it should then be left for at least four years. Some winemakers have been known to add oak chips directly into the wine to enhance flavours, especially in a bad season, and this can take years to become neutral.

  2. Interesting.

    I don't agree with the first paragraph at all.

    Second part makes more sense. I presume that 'nasties' refers to tannins - young wines, especially young Old World wines can be shockingly high in tannin structure and they definitely contribute to hangovers. Oak is also a huge issue. That's why you don't buy cheap $7 Australian wine as they cut corners and use chips, which is even worse.

    Of course, the only way to avoid hangovers is to consume in moderation. I don't think that's an option for me though.