Diet Wines and Low Alcohol Wines - Now Taste Much Better

There is growing demand for high-quality, low calorie and low alcohol wines and some countries such as New Zealand are gearing up to meet this demand.

A recent international study that involved surveys in the US, UK, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, France, and Sweden and showed that almost 40% of wine drinkers (80 million people, throughout the world were buying lower alcohol varieties of wine with less that 10.5% alcohol content). The current average alcohol content is about 15%.

About half of the wine drinkers in the UK choose lower alcohol wines because it is cheaper and the other half because it has lower calories.

The main challenge for meeting this demand and fostering the trend is to improve the quality of wine while lowering the calories and the alcohol content.

This article explores how this improvement in quality can be achieved while still offering cheaper prices.

Low calorie and low alcohol wines are becoming very popular, but there is a need to develop better taste and quality for these wines
Low calorie and low alcohol wines are becoming very popular, but there is a need to develop better taste and quality for these wines | Source
White wines typically have lower calories than red wines, but there is  a wide range of values
White wines typically have lower calories than red wines, but there is a wide range of values | Source
Red wines typically have higher alcohol levels than white wines
Red wines typically have higher alcohol levels than white wines | Source
The sugars and tastes of wine originate from various distinct parts of the grape and vary with the variety
The sugars and tastes of wine originate from various distinct parts of the grape and vary with the variety | Source

Trends in Alcohol Content of Wines

Over last 30 years the alcohol levels of wines have gradually crept up. This has partially occurred because of improved grape varieties and growing techniques have mean that riper grapes are used for making wines. Also taste preferences have shifter to fuller ricer tasting wines. The shift to preservative wines has also meant a shift to higher alcohol levels as the wines are more reliant on alcohol itself as a preservative. There has been a parallel trend towards low calories wines and low alcohol wines for health reasons. This applies to for weight control and avoidance of excessive consumption of alcohol.

How Can High Quality Wines be Produced with Low Calories and Lower Alcohol Levels?

► One technique is to harvest the grapes earlier so there is less sugar to convert to alcohol and less residual sugar to contribute to the calories in wine.

► A reverse osmosis process can be used to reduce alcohol levels, but this often compromises the taste.

► The use of natural yeasts, which are less efficient in producing alcohol and often enhance the flavor of wines, is also being examined. Choosing different varieties of commercial yeasts can also affect alcohol contents.

► Reducing the amount of fruit juices and other sources of sugar added to wines during fermentation also lowers the alcohol content.

► As alcohol provides body and carries flavor, lower-alcohol wines by definition tend to be lighter in weight and have lighter and generally sweeter taste. This particularly applies to varieties such as the sauvignon blancs.

Different Varieties of Wine Have Varying Alcohol Levels and Calories

While the alcohol level in wine depends on the growing, harvesting and wine making practices, it partially depends on the variety of wine.

The calories in popular varieties of red and white wines are listed below in order of increasing calories. Some trends are:

► Red wines generally have fewer calories than white wine. Generally a 4 oz glass of red wine contains about 95 calories, whereas a similar size glass of white wines has about 80-90 calories per glass.

► Alcohol has a very high level of calories per gram and so low-alcohol wines tend to have lower calories, but this is not always true. Alcohol has about 7 calories per gram compared with 4 calories per gram of sugar. This means some low alcohol sweet wines may have less calories than higher alcohol dry wines! A standard 6 oz glass of a typical dry wine with 15% alcohol content has about 175 calories.

► Warm regions tend to make higher alcohol wines because the longer growing season produces more sugar.

► Super high alcohol sweet wines wines like Port, Tawny Port & Banyuls get a double dose of calories via the alcohol and the added sugar. To make Port wine, neutral tasting grape derived alcohol is added to the wine to stop the fermentation and to leave remnant sweetness in the wine. Port has an alcohol content of 20% (ABV) and around 100 g/L of residual sugar. A standard 2oz glass of port contains 103 calories.

► Dry style wines typically have less calories than sweeter wines, regardless of the color. However this depends in the alcohol content, Styles of dry wines with generally higher alcohol levels are Amarone, Shiraz, Zinfandel and Grenache-Syrah-Mouvedre (GSM).

► Most Champagnes and sparkling wines have boosted levels of both alcohol and sugar, but the amount depends on the variety. The sweetest varieties have up to 50 g/L of sugar. Champagnes and sparkling wines have alcohol levels ranging from around 9-15%. The calories in a 4 oz glass of Champagne and sparling wines range from about 100 - 175.

The calories in 4oz (125ml) servings of a range of wines are shown in the table below.

Calories in a 4 oz serve of a range of wine varieties

Wine Variety
Calories in 4 oz (120ml) glass
Calories in a Bottle (750ml)
German Spatlese Riesling
75
495
Sauvignon Blanc
80
 
White Zinfandel
80
 
Chablis
85
 
Chardonnay
90
 
Cabernet Sauvignon
90
 
Merlot
90
 
Slightly Sweet Lambrusco
92
630
Burgundy
95
 
Bordeaux
95
 
Chenin Blanc
98
 
Riesling
98
 
Gewurztraminer
99
 
Sauvignon Blanc
99
 
Average White Wine
101
 
Semillon
101
 
Pinot Gris
102
 
Pinot Grigio
102
 
Muscat
103
 
Cabernet Sauvignon
105
720
German Riesling
106
720
Cabernet Sauvignon (California)
115
788
Zinfandel(California 16%)
125
855
Australian Shiraz
125
855
Chateau Y’quem
178
1215
Ruby Port
205
1395
Tawny Port
211
1440

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© 2013 Dr. John Anderson

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thewritingowl profile image

thewritingowl 2 years ago from Ireland

Interesting article. I have a huge weakness for Chardonnay and Chablis myself. Any idea how this works when you brew the wine yourself from a home-brew kit? We brew a chardonnay every Christmas, we don't add sugar to it as we don't like the wine too sweet. We add grape juice and the other ingredients from the kit. It is usually very nice and tastes better than a lot of the wines we buy. But I suppose the alcohol content is not controlled in the same way and this probably ups the calorie content?

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    Dr. John Anderson (janderson99)753 Followers
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    Dr John uses his Biochemistry & Physiology research background (PhD) to develop authoritative reviews of dieting, weight loss, obesity, food



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