ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

The other day my friend and I were discussing the hangover of the wines. The point was, if one wine has more residual sugar than another, the hangover will be stronger? How does this work?

—Victor R., Mexico

Dear Victor,

In my experience, the severity of a hangover is most directly related to the amount of alcohol consumed.

When you're feeling hung-over, a few things are at work: acetaldehyde (a toxic by-product of alcohol metabolism), dehydration and vitamin depletion (namely vitamins A, B—especially B6—and C). Sugar, whether in the alcohol itself or in the foods you consume while drinking, can accelerate the depletion of B vitamins. So, yes, in theory, sweeter wines can lead to worse hangovers.

Certain drinks, such as whisky, bourbon, and rum, are high in congeners, impurities that make hangovers worse. There's also a theory that the freshness of alcohol can contribute to how much you'll feel it the next day. Oxidation of ethanol results in more acetaldehyde, and acetaldehyde = bad.

So, if you must indulge, avoid sweet, high-congener, stale beverages. A day-old Mai Tai is your worst enemy.

—Dr. Vinny

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