Yes, I have bad news for you: there are a fair bit of calories in wine ☹
There is a reason why it is often said:
“Wine IS Food.”
As we know, wine is made of grape juice which is one of the sweetest fruit juice you can find. The good news is that fermentation does burn some of the calories out to feed our yeast friends.
That said, alcohol still contains calories your body will have to process through after a meal or a party.
But how many calories are in my favorite vino? Are there styles that are lighter than others? And how do I reduce my wine calories intake?
Let’s consider the facts, swallow the bad news and have a (small) glass of wine to help it go down?
#1 Alcohol: Between Fat and Carbohydrates
Every gram of carbohydrates (or carbs, like sugars or starch) contains 4 calories.
Every gram of pure fat contains 9 calories. Obviously, this is more than double the amount of calories compared to carbohydrates. That is why fat in excess is so bad for our bodies. That’s also why our body stores fat around our belly rather than sugar because it’s much more concentrated energy.
Pure ethanol (the main alcohol in wine) contains 7 calories per gram.
This is indeed in between carbohydrates and fat, but closer to fat I’m afraid!
So, essentially, wines with a higher alcohol content (% abv) have more calories than wines with a lower alcohol content because they contain more ethanol. It makes sense too because they were made with sweeter grapes!
The good news here is that by choosing lighter wines, you can reduce your calories intake as we’ll see later.
#2 How Many Calories in Wine: the Complete Calculation
This section may feel to some a little geeky and scientific, or give you more headache than a glass of high-sulphite wine. If that’s your case, I won’t blame you for skipping directly to the next top fact that gives in a rule of thumb how many calories are in your wine.
But for the brave and smart readers in the crowd…
Wine is mainly made of:
Water + Alcohol + Residual Sugar + Acid
So yes, wine is not only a food, it’s also a beverage, that contains about 85% water.
For more info on the composition of wine: read my Vivino Wine Chemistry 101: What is Wine Made of?
Acids in wine (tartaric, malic, lactic and citric) only represent a few grams per liter of wine, and the main one, the tartaric acid, is not metabolized by our body (metabolically inert in the human body).
So, calories in wine come down to: a) alcohol + b) residual sugars.
a) Calories from Alcohol
The basic formula used to calculate the calories in wine is as follows:
Glass/Serve Volume (Liter) x Alcohol Content (% abv) x 56 = Calories
If you’re into Ounces it will be:
Glass/Serve Volume (Ounces) x Alcohol Content (% abv) x 1.6 = Calories
Dry wines are commonly found in a range from around 11.5% alcohol to about 15%, sometimes more.
Essentially, a standard-size glass of wine (175 ml or 6 oz.) at 13% abv contains about 125 calories from the ethanol alone.
b) Calories from Residual Sugars
Dry wines have generally less than 5 grams/Litre of residual sugars (sugar that was not transformed into ethanol during fermentation). This is less than 1 gram of sugar per glass, so less than 4 calories. Sugars don’t account for many calories in dry wines then, as expected!
Off-dry or sweet wines however can vary greatly in their sugar concentration, typically ranging from 10 to 150 grams/Liter. Some insanely sweet styles can even have 300 g/L or more, but believe me you can feel it when you taste it and go easy on them!
It is unfortunately often very hard to know precisely how much sugar is in a wine as this information is not detailed on wine labels. Governments in the US and the EU are considering making the calorie count mandatory on wine labels, but they’re still thinking about it as it is a little scary to many!
In the meantime, check on winery websites, as some of them provide the information on their wine’s spec sheets.
If you do find the information, here is how you should calculate the calorie count from sugar in wine:
Glass/Serve Volume (Liter) x RS Concentration (Grams/L) x 4 = Calories
Glass/Serve Volume (Ounces) x RS Concentration (Grams/L) x 0.12 = Calories
- a glass (175 ml or 6 oz) of an off-dry wine containing 10 grams/liter of sugar will contain 7 calories
- while a glass (175 ml or 6 oz) of quite a sweet wine containing 100 grams/liter of sugar will contain 70 calories.
Add ‘Calories from Alcohol’ + ‘Calories from Residual Sugars’ to get the total.
That was easy, wasn’t it! It is thought wine helps keeping brain functions in good shape. Perhaps it’s from trying to work out how many calories we’re ingesting with it!
#3 The Rule of Thumb
If you can’t bother getting into calculations as detailed as above, remember this:
For Dry Wines
A standard glass of dry wine (6oz or 175ml) with relatively low alcohol (at 12%) contains about 130 Calories
A standard glass of dry wine (6oz or 175ml) with high alcohol (at 15%) contains about 170 Calories.
If you simply consider that most wines contain about 150 Calories per standard glass (175ml or 6 oz.), you won’t be too far off the reality.
For Sweet Wines
Sweet wines however, will be closer to 200 calories per glass. A significant difference but I’ll let you do the math for yourself 😉
Fortified wines such as sherries, ports, or other vin doux naturels (like Banyuls) not only often have a lot of residual sugars (they’re sweet!), but also have seen alcohol added to them during the winemaking process to increase their percentage of alcohol per volume. This results in high calorie content that can be greater than 300 calories per glass.
#4 Calories in Various Wine Styles
As we’ve seen above, different styles of wine contain a range of calories depending on their alcohol level and amount of residual sugar.
Find below estimates of the calorie content in some of the most common and popular wine styles:
Moderately Sweet German Riesling with low Alcohol
110 calories, bottle 500 calories
150 calories, bottle 600 calories
170+ calories, bottle 750+ calories
250+ calories, bottle 1000+ calories
300+ calories, bottle 1300+ calories
Note however, that botrytized and fortified wines are generally served in smaller standard quantities per glass (normally 2 oz.).
#5 Calories in Champagne & Sparkling Wine
Most French Champagne and other sparkling wines have some sugar added to them before release. This helps mellowing their natural acidity to the palate. Sugar addition is an operation called dosage (from French, adding a ‘dose’ of sugar).
The addition of sugar varies in quantity, from no-added sugar (aka Brut Nature, Non-Dosé or Brut Zéro) to a-lot-of-added-sugar called Doux (French for Sweet).
Careful here, as misleading as it may be, Extra-Dry means ‘rather sweet’, while Sec (French for ‘Dry’) means “clearly there is a lot of sugar in this bubbly”.
However, alcohol levels in sparkling wines tend to be lower than in other types of wines as acidity needs to be higher. So the grapes are picked less ripe, with less sugar, resulting in wines with lesser alcohol levels.
French Champagnes for example, cannot, by law, contain an alcohol level greater than 13% abv.
Exceptions exist however, with sparkling wines produced in warmer climates, more commonly in the ‘New World’ where bubblies can have alcohol levels higher than 13.5% with decent amounts of sugars as well.
So if you’re after as light a sparkling wine as possible:
“Stick to Brut and Favor Brut Nature”
Here are 3 examples of excellent Brut Nature – Zero Dosage bubbles I have tasted and reviewed:
- Louis de Sacy Cuvée Nue Brut Zéro, Non-Dosé Champagne
- Alta Alella ‘Bruant’ Organic Cava Brut Nature, Catalonia
- Domaine Moutard Crémant de Bourgogne Brut Nature
Hungry for more information about various styles of sparkling wines? Read my Simple Guide to Champagne & Sparkling Wines
#6 Food or Wine?
So, wine is food and does contain calories you will have to account for if you’re after to balanced diet and healthy lifestyle.
But if you’re looking at cutting down on your total daily calorie intake, but you still want to have a glass of wine here and there, what can you swap your glass of wine with?
Note: The above table is indicative of approximated calorie counts in popular foods and wine styles but does not account of the health and behavioral issues related to the excessive consumption of alcohol. Please drink responsibly and do not exceed your government’s recommended daily intake of wine.
#7 – 5 Ways to Reduce your wine calories intake:
This is obvious, but difficult to get around. Wine is meant to be consumed in moderation. Like everything, it’s best without excess.
Wine is also best when shared. So, share your bottle of wine, and keep some calories (and passion) for your friends 😉
Pour Smaller Glasses
The smaller the pours, the more friends you can share with!
Beyond this scientific fact, I have found that when you pour yourself smaller glasses and take more time to savor, your naturally tend to ingest less in total, just like taking time to chew food before swallowing.
So don’t take my jokes on Twitter too seriously:
Use Smaller Glassware
Scientific studies have demonstrated that when served in smaller drinking glasses, people tend to drink less than when the beverage in poured in large glassware. The brain is tricked into thinking we’re going through more of the liquid.
A common advice when partying, is to have a glass of water in between every drink.
For wine specifically, try to have at least as much water as you’re drinking wine and you will see great benefits in cutting down on wine consumption.
Bonus tip: What you’re not spending on wine, spend it on a good bottle and treat yourself with refined natural H2O that reflects the purity of its terroir.
Some water bottlers even put their water in bottles that look similar to wine bottles so your Instagram feed won’t be spoiled with obvious water containers.
Chose Lower Alcohol Wines
As we know, these have become very popular, even trendy among some drinkers.
Many producers develop viticultural and winemaking techniques to reduce the alcohol content of their wines. Some are natural, other less natural.
As a first-hand knowledge, New Zealand producers are making great investments and efforts into developing tasty wines with reduced alcohol levels. Here is an example I’ve tasted and reviewed at 2016 Spy Valley ‘Easy Tiger’ Low-Alcohol Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough
Hoping this was helpful, if it was let me know in the comments section below.
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