Are you curious about the calorie content of your favourite glass of wine? In this blog post, we'll take a look at where calories in wine come from, and why they may differ from calories in other foods. We'll also explore the correlation between drinking and weight gain, answer some common questions about calories in wine, and offer some advice for those watching their weight while enjoying a vino or two.
Where do the calories in wine come from?
Since wine doesn't contain any protein or fat beyond negligible amounts, pretty much all the calories in a glass of wine come from two sources - carbs and alcohol.
The sugar from the grape juice in grapes being turned into alcohol via the fermentation process is what turns it into wine. Any leftover residual sugar that hasn't been fermented by bacteria, or any sugar that is added to wine to enhance the flavour, will contribute to the calories in wine, as well as the alcohol.
How to calculate the calorie content of a glass of wine
Every gram of sugar equals 4 calories, while every gram of pure alcohol contains 7 calories (or Cal for short).
As far as the alcohol calories go, for a standard 150ml glass of wine (a typical serving size), to calculate wine calories, multiply your wine's ABV or alcohol percentage by 8.28, and you'll get the alcohol calories in a glass of that wine.
For example, if your wine's ABV is 13.5%:
13.5 x 8.28= 111.78 Cal
It's harder to work out the calories from the sugar in wines since the nutritional information isn't displayed anywhere on the bottle of most wine labels, unlike alcohol content. However, for a 150ml glass of wine, sugar content can range from 0.5 for some very dry wines to 30 grams for the sweetest dessert wines.
At Feravina, we curate wines that are sugar-free, and alcohol content is capped at 13.5%, with most of our wines sitting at 12% ABV. If you're looking for low-calorie wines, browse our wine collection to find your next favourite drop.
Is that all there is to understanding calories in wine?
No, far from it. Calories from alcohol are processed in a very different way to calories from carbs and other macronutrients. We'll now dig a bit deeper and explain what's going on here and what a more practical calorie count for wine looks like.
How are calories from alcohol content different?
Alcohol calories should be treated differently to carb and fat calories for 3 main reasons.
Alcohol doesn't generally lead to weight gain
A recent systemic review of cohort studies on alcohol and weight gain found that while there didn't seem to be a trend of alcohol consumption leading to weight gain, there was a link with heavy alcohol consumption. The review also found that light to moderate intake of wine seems to protect against weight gain, whereas drinking spirits was associated with weight gain. Good news for wine drinkers!
The main reason why alcohol doesn't tend to lead to weight gain is that it is metabolised differently by the body, because alcohol is a toxin which the body eliminates as quickly as possible. Some of the alcohol you drink will get processed by the stomach before it gets a chance to enter the bloodstream. For any alcohol that does enter the bloodstream, the liver will process it for elimination.
Burning alcohol as fuel is rare and inefficient
Some argue that around 3-5% of alcohol might be used as a fuel source, however, studies have repeatedly shown that those who drink are no more overweight than those who don't, and how alcohol is converted to energy isn't fully understood. Even when our bodies are trying to burn alcohol as fuel, it's a very inefficient process. This is because the ethanol first needs to be converted into acetaldehyde, then into acetic acid, at which point it can be used for fuel in a limited capacity, but a good deal of its caloric value has been lost.
Since alcohol goes down a number of different pathways the numbers can vary, but ultimately the amount of energy our bodies get out of alcohol isn't much more than we expend processing it.
Alcohol halts fat burning
The main issue with alcohol when it comes to calorie intake is that it halts our bodies' fat-burning processes. This is primarily an issue when we're fasting.
When we're fasting our bodies are happily burning our fat stores. Alcohol intake at this point messes things up.
Luckily this is easily avoided by not drinking on an empty stomach. If you're drinking wine with dinner, your body will use the calories in your meal rather than the ones in your glass of red wine.
Why do lots of people still gain weight when they drink?
One of the hidden links between weight and alcohol consumption has nothing to do with the calories in the alcohol itself. It has more to do with alcohol increasing appetite.
What we do know is that alcohol can increase appetite, and so the weight that people gain when drinking is due to excess calories, typically from carbs or fat.
So how should you actually count the calories in your wine?
The key thing to look at is the residual sugar content of a wine and counting calories based on that alone, since the calories the alcohol contributes are not nearly as relevant for the reasons outlined above. Basically, the more sugar a wine has, the more extra calories you'll ingest by drinking it.
Working out the exact amount of sugar it contains can be a challenge without direct access to the winemaker to ask them the question directly. This is why we curate delicious wines with less than 0.5g/glass or 2 calories from carbs, which are essentially sugar-free, so you know what's in your glass, and what isn't.
How to reduce your calorie intake from wine
The best way to go about this is to avoid wines with more residual sugar. However, that's easier with some varieties than others. Here's a rundown of the typical calories in wines.
Sweet dessert wine and other sweet wines like Port are the categories with the most calories, with 50-120 calories per glass.
Other sweeter wine
Off-dry wines like many German Rieslings also contain more calories with around 25 calories per glass. Check out our low-calorie white wines.
Sparkling wine like Champagne, even at its drier end, tends to have added sugar resulting in 4-10 calories per glass. Browse our sparkling wines.
Dry white wines
The sugar content of a dry white wine depends on the grape variety and how efficient the fermenting yeast was. Sauvignon Blanc will generally have lower less residual sugar than a Chenin Blanc, but this is hardly universal.
Ultimately, if white wine is fermented to dryness (meaning the yeast is never stopped from eating the sugar) you're looking at 0.5-2 calories per glass.
Dry red wines
With rare exceptions, drinking red wine is a pretty safe bet if you're looking for low-calorie wines. This is because traditionally, red wine is made dry and therefore red wine naturally contains fewer calories.
The main exception to this is mass-produced commercial red wine, like cask wines and some popular commercial wines, which tend to have added sugar to give them more body.
How many calories in a glass of red wine? As far as sugar calories in red wine go, you're looking at 0.5-2 calories per glass, just like with dry whites.
Within this range, fuller-bodied varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon will tend to have marginally higher residual sugar than lighter-bodied reds like Pinot Noir, but this is negligible. That said, some red wines can contain added sugars which can be difficult to taste on the palate, so you might be unknowingly drinking extra calories than you realise.
If you'd rather just enjoy drinking wine than worry about how to calculate red wine calories, shop our sugar-free red wines.
Why you should still look at alcohol content
While alcohol may not be the biggest issue when it comes to calories, drinking more is harmful. The average bottle of wine contains 8 standard drinks, more than either a man or a woman should be having in a single sitting. It's worth keeping this in mind, for many reasons beyond gaining weight.
Is wine more than alcohol and empty calories?
Yes, of course! There are some health benefits to drinking a glass of red wine now and then, whether it's dilating blood vessels and thus protecting from heart disease or from the antioxidants they contain.
This is hardly a reason to start drinking, but if you're a wine lover anyway, it's nice to know your glass of red wine is maybe even doing you some good.
The final word on wine calories
While the precise calorie count of a glass of wine might not be an exact science due to the lack of nutritional labelling, we hope we've given you some useful guidelines.
We also hope we have explained the difference between the two different types of calories in a glass of wine, namely sugar and alcohol.
If you're looking to get fewer calories from your wine, or would like to know how many calories your glass of wine actually has, our low-carb, natural wine will be right for you. If so, why not check out our range of wines today. To your health!