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Marketing is great. We sometimes end up buying things that we didn’t think we needed because of it. The low-carb, low-sugar products are no different. We all know alcohol isn’t necessarily the best for us in quantity when it comes to calories and carbs. We love wine, though, so let’s look at some info to make smart choices about the juice we love.
Most products are required to list the nutritional facts on their labels…except alcohol. So as a wine drinker, how do you know if you are consuming a lot of calories or not too many calories?
Well, it all depends on the wine.
Gimme some sugar, baby…
Dry wines will have fewer calories than sweet wines…sometimes.
Since nutritional information for alcohol is voluntary, how do you know how many calories you are consuming?
Sugar! The sugars are what’s important when it comes to calories in wine and alcohol. To explain this, we are going to take it all the way back to the vineyard…where it all starts.
The harvest sugar (Brix) of a wine grape are very important. That Brix amount will ultimately determine the overall alcohol in the wine.
To give you a Brix comparison:
- Wine grapes are typically harvested between 22 – 26 Brix.
- Grapes that will be used for dessert wines are a little higher, about 32 – 36 Brix.
- Grapes that you buy in the store are usually in the 13 – 17 Brix range.
Most winemakers would lead you to believe it’s very complicated to calculate alcohol.
But to do so, you don’t need charts or graphs-things like that. You simply take 59% of the Brix and that is the alcohol…more or less.
So, 24 Brix will result in about 14% alcohol.
Winemakers can stop fermentation at any point and have sugar left in the wine, this is known as residual sugar or RS. Any wine that is fermented to 100% is considered Bone Dry to Dry with no or very little residual sugar (RS).
Now you know all about the sugar content in wine. So how do know if your wine is high or low in sugar?
Read the label…
Funny thing about wine labels, there is very little that is required by the Feds that has to be on a label. Who, what, when, where and the alcohol content is about it. Plus, the mandatory “alcohol is scary” warning and “sulfites added”.
Other than that it, its a free-for-all. What you won’t find is calories or any other nutritional information.
So how can you figure out what to drink if you want less calories?
The relationship between the RS and the alcohol level in wine will determine the calorie count. A Bone Dry to Dry wine has almost no RS and if it is low in alcohol it will have the least amount of calories.
On the low end of the calorie scale examples would be:
- Pinot Grigio
- Pinot Blanc
- Grenache Blanc
- Vinho Verde
The alcohol ranges from 9-12%. The calories are in a range of 107-143 per 6fl oz. 0-20 of those calories are coming from the sugar content.
Most fortified and dessert wines are packed with sugar and alcohol. Some of these wines have more calories than a scoop of ice cream. Just to define: A fortified wine has added alcohol after fermentation, usually a brandy or cognac.
Some good examples of this would be:
- Port (fortified)
- Late Harvest (just really sweet) wines.
They are produced with an RS from 5% to as high as 20%. Alcohol varies from 9% to as high as 21%. And that means your calories vary in those ranges too.
I wondered if you’d ask… I dunno man, here’s the thing: I haven’t heard of a skinny port or skinny Tokaji….. so if skinny wines are just skinning down wines that are mostly lower-calorie wines anyway, then I’m not what the point is. I mean at best a skinny chardonnay is going to little out 2/3 of a saltine cracker worth of calories. Is that really worth skipping past a bottle with good reviews or a prior fav. I mean, I can only say for me that I’d just rather eat one less saltine.
You do what cha wanna…..