Watching your calories while enjoying a glass of wine

Published on August 10, 2013

I discovered a new wine on the shelves this week which caught my eye because it advertised itself as a “Low GI” wine.

On closer inspection, the wine claimed to have 31 per cent less calories than an average wine — and had a symbol on the back label which made clear that Low GI stood for “low glycemic index.”

A lower calorie wine follows in the trend of the low-cal beers that are becoming more popular in the market place. The major means of reducing calories in alcoholic drinks is to decrease the amount of alcohol in the drink.

We know that protein, fat, and sugar contribute calories to our diets, but some of us may not know, or understand, how alcohol also adds calories.

Unfortunately, a quick skim of Internet information is likely to lead more to confusion than understanding. Searching on alcohol and calories gets wound up with everyone’s pet weight-loss theory or scheme, alcoholism issues, and a lot of misinformation.

Drinking wine adds calories to your diet in two ways: sugar content and alcohol content. A gram of sugar is the equivalent of four calories.

A dry wine might contain as much as four grams of sugar per litre, so sugar-based calories in a bottle amount to very little, no more than a dozen. A sweet wine or port, often with more than 50 grams of sugar per liter, can contribute more than 150 calories to a bottle.

A gram of alcohol, on the other hand, is the equivalent of seven calories. A typical bottle of wine at 13.5 per cent has over 500 alcohol-based calories.

There is a lot going on when you drink and your body begins to metabolize (burn) the alcohol — too much to explain here. It is clear, nonetheless, that wine and other alcoholic beverages must be taken into account in maintaining a healthy weight.

The Miranda Summer Hues Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (NLC $16.48) from Australia has only 8.5 per cent alcohol, which accounts for its lower calorie count.

To achieve a dry wine when you have fully ripe fruit, you have to convert all the fruit sugars into alcohol, which generally leaves you with a wine well above 10 per cent alcohol by volume. If you stop fermentation early, you are left with a sweet wine.

I was not able to determine from published information how this low-alcohol wine was achieved, but my first guess is the use of a de-alcoholizing machine which simply removes alcohol molecules from the finished wine, while hopefully leaving the original taste elements.

So how does this wine do on the issue of taste? The aroma was light, but a typical sauvignon blanc with tropical fruits and grassiness intermixed.

There was also the good acidity associated with this varietal. This wine had a light body wine that would not go astray for a summer sipper. Score: 13.5, Rating: Good. (There is also a Miranda Shiraz available if you are looking for a red wine.)

There are other low alcohol wine styles that come from natural processes.

Several German white wines are available locally ranging from 8.5 to 11.5 per cent in alcohol  and ranging in sweetness from dry to medium.

A very dry white with only 8.5 per cent alcohol is vinho verde, from Portugal.


Steve Delaney is a member of the Opimian Society. Email him at

Twitter: @delaneystephen