I sometimes hear that although someone prefers red wine over white wine, they have to drink white wine because red wine causes them grief, usually in the way of heartburn or headaches. Don’t give up hope quite yet; there are some potential remedies that may allow you to enjoy red wine again.
For anyone suffering from heartburn after drinking red wine, quite often it is the tannin that is the culprit. Therefore, I suggest trying younger, fresher wines, such as Baco Noir and Pinot Noir and stay away from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah/Shiraz. The young fresh wines will contain less tannin.
Another good way to determine how much tannin is in a red wine is to look and see how long the wine can be kept for. In the Vintages section of your local LCBO this is identified by the wine bottle icon found on the description card attached to the display shelf. The bottle will either be vertical, on a slant, or horizontal. Wines with higher contents of tannin are ones that can be retained for at least several years. Those will be the ones with the horizontal or slanted bottle icon.
This being said, the reds with the slanted bottle icon should not be automatically rejected. Those that have been released within a couple of years of being produced and recommended for consumption within the next couple of years, will have considerably less tannin than those that can be cellared for a number of years. It will require experimentation to determine how much tannin your stomach will comfortably tolerate.
I also suggest avoiding red wines from warmer climates, such as Australia and South America. These wines tend to be bolder and stronger in flavour than wines from countries such as Canada or France. Wines from warmer climates tend to have longer growing seasons, thus intensifying the wine which can result in a higher degree of tummy agitation.
If red wine gives you headaches tannin again can be the instigator. Tannin consists of plant chemicals that contain antioxidants that can generate neurotransmitter serotonin. This in turn can cause headaches in some people. Selecting a red wine that contains lower amounts of tannin may be of great benefit.
However, tannin is not the only cause of headaches. Some individuals lack the ability to breakdown the high level of histamine that is contained within the red grape skins. The result is a type of allergic reaction that comes in the form of a headache. The recommended solution for this is to take an antihistamine before consuming your favourite red.
Finally, a local potter once told me that a pottery wine challis that is unglazed inside will neutralize the tannin thus making the wine easier on both the stomach and the head. It may be worth the investment to see if it works for you. The worst case would be you have a new fancy wine vessel taking space in your cupboard that can be repurposed.