Wine has a reputation for being a sugary alcoholic beverage. Sugar can account for 21 to 72 added calories per serving in sweet wines and 72 to 130 added calories per serving in very sweet wines. Knowing this, the natural tendency would be to opt for the opposite.
A dry wine (instead of a sweet wine) with dinner should help cut back on calories. Going for a dry wine is a good standard for limiting sugar consumption, but other factors contribute to the total calories in wine. A high alcohol by volume (ABV) percentage can cause the calorie content to skyrocket.
There is no nutritional value to vodka: 0g sugar, carbs and fat. Vodka is pure alcohol, and yet, one shot of 80 proof vodka contains nearly 100 calories. This is because alcohol actually contains more calories per gram than sugar.
Residual sugar contains only four calories per gram, while alcohol contains seven calories per gram. So, yes. Dry wines do contain less sugar but contain more alcohol as well.
Keeping this in mind, a dry wine that has a high alcohol by volume (ABV) content will nearly put the same amount of calories in your stomach as a sweet wine that has a low ABV content.
What are the options for a delicious wine when watching caloric intake?
Well, sweet wines are out of the question and it is a good idea to watch the ABV percentage. A dry wine with a low ABV percentage will have the lowest calorie content, but that, of course, is not the only option.
Listed below are some low-calorie options alongside their estimated calorie content and brief descriptions of their flavors and origins.
Gamay, 115 calories
A light-bodied red wine low in tannin with a splash of acidity is an encompassing description of Gamay. The flavor comes from the aroma, which can be fruity, nutty or both. Be sure to give a good swirl to the glass. Gamay Noir is a cousin to the beloved Pinot Noir and is famously fermented from Gamay grapes in the cooler climates of France. Nearly 75% of all the Gamay in the world is produced in Beaujolais, France — accounting for approximately 30 million bottles around the world every 60 days. Gamay from this particular region is named after the area called Beaujolais, which hosts a raucous Bacchanalia every year called the Beajolais Nouveau festival, where young bottles of Gamay are drank in every corner of this ancient city.
Merlot, 118 calories
The word merlot is derived from the French word merle, or blackbird, thought to be in reference to the color of the grape. That darker color translates right into the flavor palate, primarily exuding rich flavors of black cherry that complements a chocolate aftertaste. Being a full-bodied red wine that is high in tannins, Merlot comes with bold flavors that will make any wine lover forget that it is a wine they are drinking for the low-calorie content.
Riesling, 120 calories
Riesling is a white variety of grape. Most popular sweet white wines are made with Riesling, which perpetuates the common misconception that all Rieslings are sweet. Find a Riesling from New York State and Washington State or the German word Trocken printed on the label to know for sure that you found the dry option. Like most white wines, Rieslings have a high acidity and are best served cold. Notes of stone fruit and jasmine give Rieslings a juicy, crisp and refreshing taste.
Chardonnay, 120 calories
Chardonnay is the much beloved grand Dam of white wine. Because the flavors can run the gamut Chardonnay can be made in many styles from a fairly neutral white wine, to an oaky butter bomb. Chardonnay is a very ageable white wine and is considered one of the noble varieties of white grapes. Chardonnay also receives a huge variety of fermentation and aging approaches from stainless steel, to concrete amphoras, and the ever popular oak barrel. Be sure to try lots of different Chardonnays and combinations of technique to find a Chardonnay that works best for your palate.
Pinot Grigio, 122 calories
Pinot Grigio, also spelled Pinot Gris, is an elegant white wine. It can also be rosé. As a dry wine with an ABV on the lower end of about 11.5%, Pinot Grigio keeps a low calorie content. Pinot Grigio uniquely has both mineral and fruity variations. Any notes in a fruity variation will be soured by the high acidity of the wine, resulting in more citrusy flavors, like lemon zest and sour apple. In its alternative variation, no strong flavors shine through. Without fruit, Pinot Grigio is simply a bright wine with an earthy, minerality and pure taste.
Champagne, 125 calories
Colloquially, Champagne is used interchangeably with sparkling wine. No one bats an eye when a friend says they will bring Champagne to the New Year’s Party and they show up with a bottle of Asti, Prosecco, or Brut in their hand. To be labeled as Champagne, the sparkling wine must come from the Champagne region of France. Champagne is a light-bodied wine with nearly zero tannin. It can be any variety of sweetness levels, but any sugar content is balanced by a low ABV. Crisp, apple notes can be detected amidst the carbonation in young champagne, with special bottling’s like vintage Champagne, taking on toasty, marshmallow notes.
Mourvèdre, 130 calories
Mourvèdre, also known as Mataro or Monastrell, is another off-dry wine, which contributes to its slightly higher calorie content. It brings smoky, berry notes from Spain. The rustic red wine contains dark notes of blackberry, black pepper and red meat that are only highlighted by its high tannins. Described as almost the opposite of Pinot Noir in this aspect, Mourvèdre is a full-bodied wine.
There are options for everyone no matter the preference: red, white, tannic, fruity or bubbly. Opting for a dry wine does not have to mean opting for a bland wine. Off-dry wines can even be acceptable when paired with the right ABV percentage.
With all of the options for flavor palates and varieties, finding a wine to enjoy while counting calories — even one that is under 130 calories — is not an impossible task.