Share with your friends!

I love red wine, but hate the headaches which seem to go hand-in-hand when I enjoy a glass or two. Over the years I’ve sampled many varietals and blends, to no avail. Quite a frustrating predicament, especially when something divine like boeuf bourguignon is on the menu. With aftereffects not worth the indulgence, exasperated, I gave up the vino tinto all together a while back. That is, until I discovered organic reds.

Four Pour-Worthy Organic Reds from The Wine Chap. (Read on for details, and a discount!)


Somewhere along the way, I read that organic reds are a great option for those who enjoy the fruit of the vine, but whine in misery the day after, or even an hour after, imbibing. Wondering if this purported claim was fact or fiction, I called up my friend Richard Payne (aka The Wine Chap) and did a little sleuthing. Richard’s response was encouraging. He said he’s run across lots of people who suffer from the same affliction and, smart chap that he is, has done a little investigating into the realm of organics. Evidently, while most people have always thought that sulfites are the nefarious headache-causing culprits, tannins and histamines may, in fact, play a part, as well. Says Richard:

Most people don’t realize that sulfites are used as preservatives in other commonly eaten foods. Dried fruits, for example, are loaded with sulfites, but you rarely hear them being ridiculed for causing headaches. It’s quite the phenomenon, really, and there doesn’t seem to be a conclusive answer. But in my view, organic reds are a sensible option to try. The growing process involves cleaner soil and no pesticides, and organic reds are known to have lower levels of sulfites and other possible headache triggers. Ask 10 experts, and you’ll get 10 different answers, but anecdotally, I have customers who’ve had great success drinking organic reds and avoiding headaches.

That was enough to convince me. I drove right over to purchase an organic Côtes du Rhône per Richard’s recommendation. While in the wine shop, I ran into Mrs. Wine Chap (aka my good friend, Barbara Keith Payne). I told her of my pending experiment, and she said to let her know how it panned out, as she had friends who were also red wine-averse. Realizing I did as well, we hatched a plan to host an organic wine tasting to test, albeit unscientifically, my hypothesis.

A red from the Rhône River Valley in Southern France. I like it already. 2007 Cairanne Côtes du Rhône Village. $19.99


I don’t know what the British equivalent of our American expression is, but even though it sounded like a crap shoot to me, I was excited to give it a go. So, all assembled on a hot afternoon in early July. Here we are: 5 women, 6 bottles and a roll of the dice.


My co-conspirators in this organic wine foray: (l to r) Kris Rehm, Barbara Keith Payne, Yours Truly (Amy Norton), Elizabeth Trabue and Wiff Harmer. Note: All the beautiful photos you see in today’s post are courtesy of my friend, Wiff Harmer, photographer extraordinaire.


To the table, or counter at The Wine Chap rather, we brought all of our quirky chemistry and predispositions. Kris, a pediatrician at Vanderbilt, forswore reds years ago in favor of Champagne and Prosecco (a dry, Italian sparkling white) for their non-headache compatibility. Barbara Keith, though not plagued with post-red headaches, is a sometimes organic/vegan gal and was interested in trying these reds to see how they showed. (Organic wines in the past have often been given a bad rap and considered unreliable, I’m told.) Elizabeth Trabue, of the bespoke stationery company, Trabeautiful Designs, is also an organic/vegan proponent, but like the rest of our group, wrestles with the dreaded red wine headaches. Wiff Harmer, my very talented photographer friend who provided all the great photos for the post today, has avoided reds for years the same way I have, favoring beer and white wine instead.

To get us started, Richard poured some organic whites. First, a Cooper Hill Pinot Gris (Oregon), available for $12.99, and next Santa Julia Torrontes (Argentina), available for $9.99. Both delicious, the group preferred the Cooper Hill. Richard says either would be great with lighter fare like chicken and fish, or as an aperitif.


Here’s Richard pouring one of the two organic whites we tasted.


To keep our vino from rushing completely to our heads, we snacked on a nice selection of organic appetizers. My favorite was a crostini Barbara Keith made from her go-to vegan cookbook, The Kind Diet, written by Alicia Silverstone. So completely yummy. Here’s our menu, reproduced on Elizabeth’s gorgeous Trabeautiful Designs stationery:


Isn’t this a lovely touch? If my to do list were this pretty, would I be more productive?


Artichoke, mushroom and leek crostini with pesto from The Kind Diet


Tabouli-stuffed Sungold Cherry Tomatoes


Following the whites, we moved on to sample a quartet of organic reds and were not disappointed by any we tasted. First was another Cooper Hill wine, a 2009 Pinot Noir ($17.99) that was light with a round finish, ruby in color and perfect for salmon or roast chicken. This was our second favorite when the tally marks were counted. On the heels of the pinot, we tried the 2007 Cairanne Côtes du Rhône Village ($19.99) that Richard first recommended to me. Of the four, this was our least favorite, although I personally have enjoyed several bottles at home on my own, as I’m fond of wines from this region. I would also serve this with salmon or chicken, but wouldn’t hesitate to enjoy it with a flank steak seared medium rare, sliced thin and served over a bed of greens.

A few friends stopped by to shop and joined in our tasting, too. Here’s Will Bright.

The third red was Italian, NDA2’s Nero D’Avola, a spicy zin-ish treat perfect for wild game ($12.99). Our third favorite of the four, I think this wine might have opened up given a little more time. (We cook lots of game at our house and I will definitely buy more of this wine to enjoy with those meals.) Our fourth, and hands down favorite of the evening, was a wine from Chile, Novas’ Carmenère/Cabernet blend ($15.99). This wine had an interesting nose – muted bell pepper, we agreed – and was smooth on the finish. Delightful, drinkable, affordable. Done.



Our general consensus was that all the wines showed well. And I believe my field research paid off: I’m pleased to report having followed up with everyone, that we were all, to a woman, headache free the next day. [Cue the music. “Oh, Happy Day”] In fact, Kris emailed to say how happy she was to get reacquainted with reds again after a long hiatus, and Wiff said she bought several bottles to take home to continue enjoying, even another glass after the tasting, with no repercussions. Elizabeth had this to say, “The wines all agreed — I even went to Caffe Nonna for dinner that night and indulged in a couple of glasses there (the wine was organic/biodynamic)….and I felt fine the next day. Since the tasting, I have been buying the Novas and the Nero D’Avola. Both are my go-to wines for now. I like the Nero D’Avola for its lower alcohol content and taste, but I think that the Novas is the superior of the group we tasted.”

If you’re interested in trying some organic wines, Richard is offering a 10% discount at The Wine Chap to StyleBlueprint readers. Offer good through Saturday, July 30.

Just mention at the checkout.

(And please note: the discount is only for organic wines.)

To subscribe to Richard’s weekly emails — not to miss — click here.

To contact Wiff Harmer about photography and to see examples of her work, click here.

And, to contact Elizabeth Trabue about your custom stationery needs or see examples of her work, click here.


StyleBluePrint Editor Amy Norton


Share with your friends!