As America grapples with an obesity epidemic, wine lovers wonder if their favorite drink can be part of their diet
And contemplating the calories in a glass of wine is not just about looking good. More than one-third of American adults are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), raising their risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.
For years, Wine Spectator has looked into the science behind wine and weight to better understand how to maintain a healthy lifestyle without giving up your favorite beverage.
Wine by the Numbers: Counting Calories, Carbs and More
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), an average 5-ounce glass of dry table wine between 11 and 14 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) will contain 120 to 130 calories. But since only a handful of producers provide nutritional information on their labels, it’s hard to know exactly how many calories you’re actually consuming with each sip, and the final tally can vary—by a lot.
One way to get an idea of how many calories you’re drinking is to look at the wine’s alcohol content. A 5-ounce glass of wine that’s 12 percent ABV will contain 14 grams of alcohol. One gram of alcohol contains 7 calories, so the higher a wine’s ABV, the more calories you’re going to consume. (Watch out for those fortified wines!)
Also contributing to your caloric intake? Carbs. At 4 calories per gram, the amount of carbohydrates—including sugars—in your glass can also affect your overall calorie count, so while an average table wine may only contain around 3 to 4 grams of carbs per glass, a typical 3-ounce pour of a dessert wine would clock in at 12 grams, even at the smaller serving size.
Plus, carb count can affect more than just your calorie intake. In the body, carbs are broken down into glucose, which can be burned off when used for energy. But when there is an excess of glucose, it’s stored as fat.
Despite that, there are many wines that work within low-carb consumption goals. A good rule of thumb: The sweeter the wine, the higher its carb count will likely be; dry reds and whites, plus sparklers, are often great low-carb options. (Also, keep track of your serving sizes; many drinkers underestimate how much they’re pouring, and an extra ounce of wine here and there adds extra calories and alcohol.)