Wining and dining when you’re watching your carb or calorie intake requires discipline and a little creativity. Armed with knowledge and a few guidelines, you should be able to make better decisions about what you’re drinking. We’re often asked if wine can be a moderate part of a healthy lifestyle or a short term diet. We can’t answer that for you definitively, as we are not nutrition or medical professionals, but we can give you information about wine, so you can make better decisions for yourself with your health professional.
Is Dry Wine Good For You?
“All Dry Wine is Good for You” and Other Harmful Myths – Incorrect diet info is everywhere!
The internet is full of misinformation. Obviously so, since it’ll often take your flu symptoms and diagnose you with throat cancer. So, it’s often not the best idea to believe everything you read on the internet.
The same goes for diet tips. Eye catching infographics and charts indicating that “dry red wine” is low in sugar or that certain grape varieties are okay on a Keto diet while others are not, is misleading and potentially harmful. The fact is a Merlot made by one winery does not have exactly the same characteristics (including sugar levels) as a Merlot made by a different producer.
General guidelines can be beneficial to inform consumers, but blanket statements in neatly drawn charts can leave you wondering why you’re not able to shed that last 5 pounds or kicking your sugar addiction while drinking these so-called “dry wines.” The proof ain’t in the puddin’ – it’s the wine glass. Now more than ever we need to be cautious and source our information with diligence.
Here are a few myths about wine followed by helpful guidelines to help you make informed dieting decisions.
Myth: Cabernet Sauvignon is drier than Merlot.
Truth: Both grape varieties can be vinified equally dry (the absence of residual sugar). It is a winemaker’s decision how sweet (presence of sugar) or dry the wine will be.
Myth: Brut Champagne is low in sugar, after all “Brut” means “dry.”
Truth: There can be up to 12 g/L of Residual Sugar (RS) in Brut Champagne. While that isn’t a significant amount, it is by no means sugar-free.
Myth: If you see Extra Dry on a sparkling wine label it means it’s drier than regular Champagne.
Truth: This is the most misunderstood labelling term in wine. Extra Dry has more sugar than Brut. The sugar levels in sparkling wine from lowest to highest goes like this:
- Brut Nature (Zero Dosage)
- Extra Brut
- Extra-Dry (Extra-Sec)
- Dry (Sec)
- Doux (Sweet)
If you’re looking for a Champagne or sparkling wine with low sugar or no sugar, check the label for Extra Brut (not Extra Dry) or even better Brut Nature or Zero Dosage.
Myth: Riesling is sweet, so avoid it to reduce sugar and calories.
Truth: Not all Riesling is sweet. In fact, many are bone dry with 0 residual sugar. Not all Riesling wines are produced the same.
Wine Calorie and Nutritional Facts
Consumers may find the downside of wine labels is that there is no nutritional information listed. While other beverage label are mandated to include a Nutrition Facts label, which includes calories, fat, vitamins, carbohydrates etc, per serving, wine has no such regulation.
Mandatory information on a wine label is the producer, grape variety, region of origin, alcohol by volume, the presence of sulphites (unavoidable in wine) , but not usually much else. A producer may indicate on a label if the wine is barrel aged, certified organic, vegan friendly or give a description of the flavour and aroma characteristics. However, no indication of the residual sugar levels, additives or other nutritional information is readily available.
Often more detailed information can be found on the winery website. Residual sugar, pH levels, vineyard practices and winemaking processes are indicated on a “spec sheet” or in the technical notes. Still, that doesn’t indicate calories, carbohydrates or antioxidant levels.
Sugar Content of Wine
How alcohol by volume can indicate sugar levels
Most diet plans have you reduce your sugar intake. If you don’t do the research ahead of time or have access to the sugar levels while you’re in a wine store, you’ll need to figure it out another way.
Often the alcohol level can give you a guideline on sugar levels. The way fermentation works is yeast eats sugar and creates alcohol. When grapes are fully ripened, they have high enough sugar levels for yeast to eat up and create alcohol. If all the natural sugar is converted to alcohol, there will be no sugar leftover in the wine. If not all of the sugar is converted, what is leftover is called residual sugar (RS) and gives the wine a sweeter taste. Most fully fermented wines will have an alcohol by volume (abv) of between 11% and 15% so if you see a wine that has less than 11% abv, there is a good chance there is residual sugar. For example, Moscato d’Asti is a sweeter tasting wine that typically falls between 5 to 9% abv. This means there can be around 20 to 40 grams per litre (one bottle is 750mL) of natural, residual sugar. Compare that to a 330 mL can of cola at about 40+ grams of sugar, usually from high-fructose corn syrup.
Alcohol Content of Wine
More alcohol = More calories
The general rule is the higher the alcohol by volume (abv), the higher the calories. Sugar is not as calorically dense as alcohol, so even if a wine does not taste sugary sweet, it may be high in calories because of the sugar. Per gram, sugar contains 4 calories while alcohol has 7 calories per gram. Watching for sugar content in wine is important, but so is abv, depending on your diet and lifestyle goals or your physician’s recommendation.
A moderate alcohol content is about 12% abv for white and about 13.5% abv for red. When the grapes ripen that potential for alcohol increases so watch out for wines that come from hot regions because the alcohol can sit at 16-17% or more. California Zinfandel is a famous example of wines with high volumes of alcohol. However, it is again the winemaker’s choice just how boozy they may want the wine to be and there are ways to show restrain when it comes to alcohol, even for notoriously high alcohol wines like Zinfandel. Always look at the label for the percentage. Keep in mind there is a little bit of wiggle room permitted regarding that number. It could be as much as .5% higher or lower than what is listed on the label.
Wine Additives – Is sugar added to your wine?
It may surprise you that there’s more than just grapes involved in making wine. In fact, there may even be additives in your wine that you’re not aware of. For the most part, you can bank on only grapes, yeast, sulphites (a by-product of fermentation) and a fining agent being used in wine production, but not 100% of the time. Depending on the winery practices and volume of wine produced, there are companies that choose to add different components to their wines for various reasons. One of those wine additives is sugar.
Mass produced wines tend to have a bunch of additives to preserve the product, give it consistency, or attain a certain flavour profile. Adding sugar to a wine without a lot of character can enhance flavours and give it a “smoother” impression. Producers that are rapidly churning out a product without much thought for the romance, passion or integrity of wine, don’t think twice about additives. Much like processed foods, there’s a market for it and large wine corporations happily supply consumers with cheap wine. The real cost is the not at the checkout counter, it’s consumers not knowing what they’re getting. Buyer beware: not all wines are produced with the same care. You might be getting more than you bargained for in the form of sugar and other additives when you pick up that $6 bottle of wine from the grocery store.
The Keto Diet and Wine – Is Wine Keto Diet Friendly?
Can you drink wine on a Keto diet?
Remember with the Keto diet, you’re counting carbohydrates, not calories. On average, dry wines have around 4 to 6 grams of carbs. Another factor to consider is that alcohol affects liver metabolism which means that drinking wine produces more ketones. So, it’s possible that alcohol consumption can deepen your level of ketosis, but it will slow down weight loss. It is recommended that those on a strict Keto diet avoid beer and wine, while unflavoured distilled spirits are a better choice as they are 0 grams of net carbs.
Wine Portion Sizes – How much wine should you be drinking?
There’s probably a difference between a “standard pour” and how full your glass usually is!
The global standard for one serving of wine is 5 ounces! One standard drink is 1 oz of spirits, 5 oz of wine and 12 oz of beer. Depending on the size of your wine glass, 5 oz can look like a very small portion. Most restaurants will offer a 5 or 6 ounce glass pour as well as a large size which is usually an additional 3 oz. When we pour for ourselves at home, it’s likely we’re pouring at least 7 or more ounces of wine (and going back to the kitchen for more!) Each 5 oz glass of wine has at least 100 calories or more and around 3-5 g Carbs. Keep that in mind when you pour yourself a large glass of wine!
Alcohol Tolerance and Dieting
Will your diet make increase sensitivity to alcohol in wine?
Depending on the meal plan or diet you’re on, you might become less tolerant to alcohol. Experts say that on the Keto diet your alcohol tolerance is lowered because your liver is metabolizing more efficiently. Drinking wine on an empty stomach can also affect how you feel and give you that tipsy feeling much quicker. If you’ve chosen to reduce the frequency and amount of alcohol you consume, a glass of wine may affect you differently than before you began your diet. These are all things to consider, so be aware of your body’s reaction during the diet or lifestyle change. Always remember to drink responsibly.