Photo by Erin Cooper

With all the hype surrounding Ketogenic, Paleo and low-carb diets, we thought it would be interesting to get a registered dietitian’s perspective on how wine can best fit into a healthy lifestyle. Tara Noseck, RDN, LD and founder of Neat Nutrition based in Las Vegas, recently sat down with us to discuss whether or not wine contains carbohydrates. She also offered some tips to help determine the types of wine that are best suited for individuals looking to maintain a low-carb intake. 

Does wine technically contain carbohydrates?

Wine does contain carbohydrates, and although its contribution to overall calories varies, it is minimal. The main source of calories in wine comes from alcohol. If you look up the nutrition facts for a 5 ounce glass of wine on the USDA website, you will find that it contains 4 grams of carbohydrates in that 5 ounce serving. Carbohydrates always contribute 4 calories per gram, so for this glass of wine, the total calories from carbohydrates is 16. The remainder comes from alcohol, which contributes 7 calories per gram, and makes up the majority of the caloric content.

What formula(s) would you use to count calories and carbohydrates in a glass of wine?

Unfortunately, there is no way to count exact calories, sugar and overall carbohydrates in the broad spectrum of wines available on the market. As you know, winemakers are not required to provide nutrition facts for their products. If you wish for more detailed information, I suggest contacting the winemaker directly.

How would you calculate the carbohydrates and calories for a glass of wine with the following statistics?

Kung Fu Girl Riesling: 1.4% Residual Sugar g/100mL and 12% Alcohol 

For a standard serving of wine: 5 oz (150 mL)

1.4 g sugar x 150 mL (5 oz) = 2.1 g sugar x 4 cals/g = 8.4 calories from carbohydrate (sugar)

and

12 g alcohol x 150 mL (5 oz) = 18 g alcohol x 7 cals/g = 126 calories from alcohol

8.4 cals + 126 cals = approximately 134 cals in a 5 oz glass

Would you recommend wine to people who are looking to drink an alcoholic beverage with lower calories?

It is my position that wine can absolutely fit in to a healthy lifestyle and diet. In addition to maintaining sensible intake, it is important to evaluate your accompanying meal. Is it a decadent bowl of cream-based pasta or is it a plate of grass-fed sirloin with roasted Brussels sprouts? Think about the glass of wine in the context of the rest of your meal and your day. My general recommendation would be to enjoy one glass of wine several times a week. Choose a quality wine that pairs well with your food and sip it thoughtfully throughout the meal.

Which wine characteristics would you recommend people look for if they would like to enjoy a glass with the lowest possible calories and carbohydrates? 

When looking at carbohydrate and calorie content in wine there is a continuum, so generally speaking, dryer white wines are going to contain less. As the sweetness increases, so do the calories, sugar and carbohydrates. If you are looking to keep that low, your best bet is to stick with a dryer white wine.

If you are trying to achieve a healthy weight, or live a healthier lifestyle in general, moderation is of course the key. Remember that wine is meant to be enjoyed. Obsessing about caloric load takes some of the joy out of the experience. There is certainly a difference between having a glass or two or drinking the whole bottle at one meal.

If you would like to get in touch with Tara, email neatnutritionlv@gmail.com or visit her website at www.neatnutrition.com. 

Master Sommelier Joseph Phillips, Director of Wine Education and Trade Development at Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits in Las Vegas, recently noted that “the cooler growing regions of Europe naturally tend to produce dry wines with moderate alcohol levels due to less overall sunshine, so less sugar, typically hitting the 11 to 12.5% alcohol range.” This includes but is not limited to Burgundy and Chablis in Northern France, Piedmont and Friuli in Northern Italy and Galicia and Rias Baixas in Northern Spain. 

Here are a few lower carb/calorie recommendations to keep an eye out for: 

- Pascal Jolivet Sancerre (White)

- Domäne Wachau Grüner Veltliner Federspiel Terrassen (White)

- Drouhin Beaujolais Villages (Red)

- Bruno Giacosa Dolcetto (Red)

- Vinho Verde from Portugal (White)