The myth; ‘champagne gives you a headache’ is as persistent as a thirsty fly in the Outback.
No matter how many French princesses, Russian oligarchs, Silicon Valley bros, Formula One winners or club promoters spruik the stuff, your average person typically avoids it (as a regular drink) due to its price point and migraine marauding reputation.
We save it for Christmas, New Year’s Eve, promotions – and even then we drink with dread.
On one hand, you can hardly blame us. We’re not gaslighting you – you probably did get a headache the last time you drank sparkling wine. But as Kyla Kirkpatrick – Founder & CEO of Emperor Champagne and The Champagne Dame – points out, champagne itself is not to blame.
There are a few reasons for this. The first? There is a big difference between sparkling wine and champagne, which many people forget about.
Kyla told DMARGE: “It is definitely a myth. It’s not champagne that gives you a headache, it’s the additives and sulfur. People often put all sparkling wine into one category, instead of talking about champagne and sparkling wine separately.”
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Kyla added: “Champagne is a controlled region that has very strict production standards and qualities. No other region in the world has the rules and the attention to detail that Champagne does. There are lower sulfates and no additives in the Champagne region, that paired with the movement towards biodynamic and organic means even lower levels of sulfur are in champagne these days.”
“You’re much more likely to find additives or sulphur used as preservatives in sparkling wines that are made en masse.”
Kyla told us part of the problem is that people are not identifying champagne as a unique product and region, instead putting it in a singular category of sparkling wine.
“As someone who has worked in the champagne industry for over fifteen years I find that very hard to combat, but it’s about educating consumers that Champagne is a unique region with a unique set of rules and that really comes down to educators like me and champagne specialists, such as Emperor Champagne, to really sing the praises and the uniqueness of the region.”
“Through my work as a champagne educator and presenter I have spoken to thousands of people about champagne and most will tell you that champagne is the only wine that doesn’t leave them with a headache or any nasty side effects the next day. As Madame de Pompadour says, ‘Champagne is the only wine that leaves a woman more beautiful after drinking it.’”
Another factor to take into account is that studies have shown, if you drink too much, or if you mix your drinks (as we often do on those celebratory days when we tend to drink champagne) then you are more likely to feel hungover.
Frederick Freitag, associate director of the Diamond Headache Clinic in Chicago and a board member of the National Headache Foundation, gets behind this theory, telling the Wall Street Journal “sulfites can cause allergy and asthma symptoms, but they don’t cause headaches.”
Others argue it could be because of the sugar. Thrillist rejects this though, writing, “In Champagne’s case specifically, some attribute the headache symptoms to the higher-than-normal sugar content of bubbly.”
“But the science here is murky at best.”
“While sugar does dehydrate you – which can lead to a headache – the sugar content present in Champagne is probably not what is making your noggin pound. Especially if you don’t usually get headaches when you eat a chocolate bar, for instance.”
Thrillist adds: “the real answer here is kind of obvious…”
“Unsurprisingly, the alcohol content in Champagne is what delivers the skull-shattering headaches. When you drink Champagne – or any other type of alcohol – the hormone that balances your internal hydration is suppressed. So, you end up peeing a lot more. This leads to dehydration. Which leads to headaches in the morning,” (Thrillist).
“The reason the alcohol in Champagne – as opposed to beer or other wine – seems to hit harder is primarily due to its high levels of carbonation.”
The bubbles allegedly increase the pressure in your stomach, forcing alcohol out through the lining of your stomach into the bloodstream, the argument goes.
Another argument is that it’s more that – because we drink it less often – we are not as good at judging our limits and are more liable to drink enough alcohol to give us a headache.
Carbonation for contemplation.