Drinking wine is a delicious habit indeed. However, every year many people decide to cut down their weekly consumption because of the calories in it. One glass of wine can approximately range between 100 to 300 calories. This is why more and more consumers are looking for good quality low calorie wine!
The calorie range has to do with alcohol content, inherent sweetness of the wine, and serving size. There is no need to panic though, wine can still be part of a healthy and balanced diet. The following information will give you more details about where calories come from in wine and examples of wines that have a natural lower calorie content.
As always in life, “cutting down” can only be an effective short-term solution. We hope this brief guide will give you all the tools you need to manage wine calories on a longer term and without the need to compromise on taste!
THE FIRST ENEMY FOR A LOW CALORIE WINE: ALCOHOL
Before we start, let’s immediately make something very clear. Water, alcohol, carbohydrates, and trace minerals are the only components of wine. Therefore, calories in wine can only come from carbohydrates and alcohol. Carbohydrates come from the residual sugar left in wine. Alcohol comes from the fermentation process, when yeast eats at the sugar in the grapes and develops alcohol plus other byproducts (like carbon dioxide and sulphites).
Alcohol has 7 calories per gram, versus carbohydrates (sugar) which have 4 calories per gram. This means some sweet wines have actually less calories than some dry wines. This is also why the highest calorie wines tend to have the highest alcohol content too.
So, what we should do exactly when we are looking for a low calorie wine?
As most wines are ‘dry’ (in terms of the sugar level, rather than how fruity they taste), the alcohol content is a very solid guide to the working out of how many calories are in a wine.
Grapes belonging to cool climate wine regions develop less sugars during the Summer period. For this reason they usually give (naturally) low calorie wine.
AVOID OFF-DRY FIZZ AND SWEET WINES (UNLESS THEY HAVE VERY LOW ABVs)
In the Champagne making process (also knows as Traditional Method, with in-bottle fermentation), the added amount is called dosage. The dosage can range from nothing to sweet, with up to 50 g/l of sugar.
On the other hand, the Prosecco Spumante (probably the most popular fizz in the UK right now) is normally Brut, Extra Dry or Dry, depending on the residual sugar contained in the wine:
• Brut is the driest style with 0-12 g/l of residual sugar;
• Extra Dry is exactly in the middle with 12-17 g/l;
• Dry is the sweetest version with 17-32 g/l of residual sugar.
Prosecco and other sparkling wines made following the so called Charmat Method (also known as Martinotti Method, with fermentation in tank) generally present lower ABVs because their winemaking is focused on the expression of aromaticity and freshness. Average ABV for those wines is usually between 11% and 12%.
Hay Wines are also official importers of the only zero sugar Prosecco available on the UK market.
WHAT ABOUT DESSERT?
Finally, when we start considering a potential low calorie wine for the dessert, the situation gets very tricky.
Clearly, residual sugars (normally between 120 – 150 g/l) already give us quite an important amount of calorie to start with. In addition, many dessert wines are also very high in alcohol.
Just think about some of the most popular fortified wines like Port, Sherry, Madeira, Marsala, or other dessert wines that come from dried grapes like the Italian Passitos. Those are all amazing wines, with an incredible depth of flavours and aromas. However, they combine high ABVs with high sugars, and this unfortunately creates a real calorie bomb.
We all love a nice glass of Tawny Port with a chunk of blue cheese… but that is not a low calorie meal, I am afraid!
Luckily, there are also dessert wines that have naturally low ABVs thanks to the use of particular grape varieties and winemaking techniques. In that case, you will be amazed to know that those dessert wines can actually be even lower in calories that some dry reds!
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