Counting calories doesn't have to mean giving up wine all together. While those liquid calories can add up, certain low-calorie wines don't actually add much to your total caloric intake. In fact, a glass of muscadet is the equivalent to a bowl of popcorn or an avocado with Nut-Thins. The key is finding wines that you love that are both lower in alcohol and sugar and drinking them in moderation.
If the combination of the two words in this heading already has your head spinning, you're in for a wake up call. Yes, wine has calories. Just like all other non H20 drinks from Gatorade to brandy. But understanding a few key factors about where these calories come from can help you choose a wine that has fewer calories so that you can keep enjoying a glass here and there and still keeping those numbers in check.
What Determines Calories in Wine
According to the USDA, most wines have anywhere between 100 and 130 calories per 5 ounce pour. Alcohol content is a significant contributor, with seven calories per gram. Because of this, wines with high alcohol content like Zinfandel or fortified wines, like Sherry, tend to be higher in calories. Wines list alcohol content on the label as ABV (alcohol by volume). Look for wines with an ABV of 12.5% or less to reduce calories. Piquette is another great wine-like-beverage to look for. It typically has an ABV of 5-9%. Sugar content is another key contributing factor to wine calories. Just like all other fruits, grapes have natural sugars. In the fermentation process, the yeasts consume the sugars and convert them into alcohol. Depending on the winemaker and the style of the wine, there can be residual sugar left at the end of this process. The amount of residual sugar determines how sweet a wine tastes. Additionally, it adds four calories per gram. Finding a dry wine with zero to little residual sugar will be the best bet to avoid these extra calories. It's important to consider both ABV and sugar together when looking for wines. Moscato, for example, has a particularly low ABV, yet contains significant amounts of residual sugar.
Low Calorie and High Calorie Wines
The lowest calorie wines tend to be dry whites like muscadet, white zinfandel, and Chablis. Dry rosés are also relatively low in calories. Red wines generally have more calories than dry whites, but there are many lower-cal reds to choose from that won't send your total calorie count skyrocketing. Cabernet franc, carignan, and tempranillo are all lower calorie reds. Off dry, semi-sweet, sweet wines, and fortified wines tend to have the most calories because of the sugar and/or alcohol content. If you are looking to avoid racking up liquid calories, steer clear of heavy reds like zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon, and Bordeaux. Also avoid any luscious feeling bubbles or dessert wines like moscato, sweet sherry, sweet vermouth, and eiswein as they tend to have the most calories and can add up quickly.
Calculating Wine Calories
Rethinking Drinking, a site sponsored by the National Institutes of Health Department of Health and Human Services, has an online alcohol calorie calculator. This useful tool allows you to input the number of glasses of wine you consume per week to get your weekly caloric intake from the drinks.
Calories by Wine Type
While calories can vary greatly from wine to wine, the one thing that can remain consistent and help you to narrow in on a number is keeping the serving the same. The standard glass pour in the United States is 5 ounces. The following breakdown of calories is based on this 5 ounce serving size.
White and Rosé Wines
Many white and rosé wines tend to be lower in alcohol than reds. This means that dry whites are lower in calories, while sweeter whites may be more caloric. Muscadet, white zinfandel, and Chablis are under 105 calories per 5 ounce pour while sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, Sancerre, fumé blanc, and vinho verde are all under 110 calories. Sèmillon, dry riesling, chardonnay, and gewürztraminer are between 115-125 calories per serving.
If you are a red wine drinker, look for lighter bodied reds that are dry. Glou glou, easy drinking, light wines, are a great option as they are often between 10.5-12.5% ABV. Cabernet franc, Rioja, tempranillo, and carignan are all under 115 calories per glass. Grenache, pinot noir, Burgundy, priorat, gamay, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, merlot, syrah, and Côte-Rôtie are between 115-125 calories per serving. Finally, barbera, sangiovese, Chianti, zinfandel, malbec, mourvèdre, Bordeaux, cabernet sauvignon, petit sirah, petit verdot, and super Tuscans are all over 125 calories a pour.
Sparkling wines range in calories depending on how sweet they are. Brut and extra-brut sparkling wines are lower in calories than off-dry or sweet bubbles. Dry prosecco or cava are good low-cal bubbles to look for between 90-110 calories a glass. Brut Champagne has slightly more, at around 115-125 calories. Moscato d'Asti is low in alcohol, but tends to have quite a bit of residual sugar so it is often 125 calories or more per serving.
Dessert and Fortified Wines
Dessert and fortified wines tend to be higher in calories due to higher sugar and/or alcohol content. However, you tend to drink smaller servings of these wines. Note that unlike the other wines, these have a 3 ounce serving size. If you are looking for an apéritif or a little after dinner delight, try a dry sherry; it has the least amount of calories at around 60 per serving. Dry vermouth is another good bet, at around 105 calories per 3 ounce pour. Tawny port, ruby port, Sauternes, and sweet sherry are all significantly more, between 125-165 calories per glass. Finally, if you are not looking to add heaps of calories to your daily intake, avoid dessert wines...eiswein and other dessert wines can have 220 calories or more per serving.
You Can Have Your Wine and Drink It Too
Searching out a low-cal wine may take a little bit more time and effort, but once you find one you enjoy, you don't have to fret about the additional calories as they can be quite nominal. The key to keeping those numbers down while still relishing a glass of wine is assessing the ABV and sugar content and drinking in moderation.