I love a glass of red wine. But as I’ve gotten older (heh), my favorite adult beverage often leaves me with terrible headaches. Lately, I’ve seen a lot of sponsored posts for natural wines on my social media feeds – I’m convinced these devices are listening to us – and celebrities like Cameron Diaz are promoting their own labels and promoting their Telling about health benefits. It’s organic, and it shouldn’t cause headaches from red wine. That got my attention.
But is natural wine really better for you? Is the “No Headache” claim valid? Most importantly, how does it taste?
Natural winemakers use many of the additives found in commercial wines, such as sulfites, a preservative that prevents oxidation in wine and is popularly blamed for headaches. “In the vineyard, it’s all about using as little human hand as possible,” explains Jafar Kovic, owner of Dilworth Tasting Room. “Many wine drinkers call this category ‘hippie wines.'” This is the purest form of wine. The grapes work to taste like wine.
Ideally, Kovic says, natural wines should have “clean, natural flavors.” It is not uncommon for natural wines to have a vinegary taste, but this is a result of exposure to oxygen due to fermentation for too long. However, don’t be concerned if your natural wine looks cloudy. That’s just because it’s unfiltered. And sulfites probably aren’t the cause of your headache. All wines contain sulfites; Even naturally occurring yeast releases them to fend off bacteria. Without sulfites, wine will turn to vinegar – and if a wine tastes like vinegar, throw it out.
“Soames hears it on the floor all the time,” says Kovic. “A guest will tell us they’re allergic to sulfites and would like organic wine.” But according to the FDA, only 1% of the population has sulfite allergies. Your red wine headache probably stems from dehydration or tannins, a chemical found naturally in grape skins. Natural wines generally have a lower alcohol content than traditional wines, which may explain why people feel less lightheaded after drinking.
Kovic says he has seen more sales of natural wines over the past few years, but as demand increases, prices will inevitably rise. “I’d say a nice bottle of Natty wine for around $25 on the store shelf is a good start,” he says. “If you can find one at a restaurant for $45 to $60, I’d buy it.”
Like any wine, you won’t know for sure whether you like a particular label until you try it. I went to the Dilworth Tasting Room to check it out. The red was sold out, but DTR had two whites: L’Un des Sens Chenin Blanc, a medium-bodied white with fruity notes, and Nature’s Revenge, a fizzy Chardonnay. I chose the latter. On a hot August night, it was extremely refreshing – like tart Prosecco. I didn’t detect any clouds, and the next morning I had neither a vinegar taste nor a severe headache.
I’m not inclined to buy the case for nature’s vengeance. But I definitely wouldn’t rule out a red variety, or any other hippie wine, next time I go out.
Taylor Bowler is the Lifestyle Editor.