Is there really such a thing as a low sugar wine? And what does a low sugar wine really mean? If you’ve got questions, then we’ve got answers. In this article, we’re going to cover all the details about wine, wine's sugar content, as well as our top pick for where to find the best low sugar wines on the market! Keep reading (or listen through the Soundcloud link below!) to learn how to keep your sugar intake low while still enjoying a glass of vino!
The holidays are right around the corner and our social calendars are filling up to celebrate the season! Alongside these celebrations often comes those celebratory beverages! And for many of us, who choose to partake, wine is a common choice.
If you’ve followed Root + Revel for a while, you’ll know that we enjoy our wine but we’re also very conscious of the type of wine we choose. In general, we’re always on the look out for products that allow us to find that balance of what's good + good for us, and low sugar wine fits the bill!
Over the years, research has shown many health benefits of drinking wine in moderation. There's even the suggestion that when compared to other alcoholic beverages, the health benefits of wine may outweigh the negative effects of its sugar content.
So, sit back with a cup of tea (or wine for that matter!) and we'll tell you all you need to know about sugar and wine and how to make an informed buying decision for your health.
- Low Sugar Diets
- Adequate Carbohydrate Intake
- Why Is Sugar Bad For You?
- Dangers of High Sugar Diets
- The Sugar Content of Alcohol
- Types of Alcohol: Hard Alcohol vs Wine + Beer
- Why Is There Sugar In My Wine!?
- How Are Low Sugar Wines Made?
- How Much Sugar Does Wine Actually Have?
- Table: Sugar Content of Wines
- Which Type of Wine is Highest is Sugar?
- The Best Source for Low Sugar Wine
Low Sugar Diets
Low sugar diets such as the keto diet, paleo diet and low-carb diet are still very popular today. Even so, our population's intake of sugar, especially refined sugars, continues to skyrocket. Food companies have known for a long time that adding refined sugars to food products not only make them taste good but it’s also a cheap way to bulk up a product. Meaning, it costs them less money to make more!
The food industry has flooded the market with high sugar foods which has led to the standard American diet being extremely high in low quality carbohydrates, namely refined sugars.
This overconsumption of sugar has led to numerous health concerns in our population and has increased the risk of developing, or suffering from symptoms, of obesity, hypertension, and/or diabetes.
So, do we even need sugar in our diet?
Adequate Carbohydrate Intake
Sugar is a simple form of carbohydrate and we do need carbohydrate, specifically glucose, for our bodies to function.
The recommended dietary allowance, or RDA, for carbohydrates is 130 grams per day. This is the amount an average person requires to provide adequate glucose for proper brain function. Glucose is our brain's main source of energy.
Generally speaking, not too many people need to worry about getting enough sugar everyday. The typical American diet has upwards of 300 grams (or more!) of carbohydrates each day.
This high carbohydrate intake may not be a bad thing depending on your unique needs. Nutritionists suggest that you get 45-65% of your daily calorie intake from carbohydrates. Personally, I recommend leaning towards the lower end of that range and focusing more on good quality fats and protein but that's a topic for another time!
Why Is Sugar Bad For You?
If we need carbohydrates, how come sugar is bad for us?
Well, before we go any further let's get our story straight. It’s easy to say that sugar is bad for you but there is more to it than that.
Sugar itself is not bad. As mentioned, glucose (which is a component of ‘table sugar') is essential for our bodies to function properly. The problem with sugar lies in the quantity (how many carbs you eat), where it comes from (processed or unprocessed foods) and the form it comes in (simple or complex carbohydrates).
The most amazing thing about our body, at least in my opinion, is its ability to adapt to its environment in order to survive. When it comes to fuel, our body will easily and efficiently generate energy by breaking down dietary carbohydrates. Like a bowl of rice, glass of juice or a fiber rich sweet potato. However, when we don’t feed it carbohydrates our bodies get creative and use another means to get that glucose.
Our body has the ability to create glucose by breaking down proteins (from muscles and organs) and fats (from our fat stores).
This is not a fast and easy process and certainly not the most efficient, but it works. The body will use this process whenever it needs, to keep your body, and its functions, working properly.
Dangers of High Sugar Diets
Now, I just finished saying that sugar is not a bad thing. But, that said, too much of a good thing is never a good thing! Right?
When our diets are high in sugar they are linked to a ton of health issues. Poor blood sugar control and high sugar intakes can lead to heart health issues, brain health issues, vascular issues, oral health problems and all sorts of damage to various organs in our body. It can also make it more challenging to manage a healthy weight.
The Sugar Content of Alcohol
Alcohol itself is considered a non-nutrient as it provides no nutritional value. It does however provide energy. And…a calorie, is a calorie, is a calorie….so even though it's not nutritionally valuable it does provide a source of fuel. Alcohol's fuel is often referred to by health professionals as ‘empty calories’.
In addition to that, alcohol is also taxing on the body, as it has to broken down and cleared to prevent alcohol's harmful effects that could occur if it's left circulating in the bloodstream.
Types of Alcohol: Hard Alcohol vs Wine + Beer
When we look at specific types of alcohol, hard alcohol like vodka and gin, are considered ‘pure' alcohols. This means, there are no other nutrients present. They are simply empty calories. However, alcohol like wine and beer are not ‘pure' alcohol as they contain carbohydrates (true for wine + beer) and protein (just beer).
Often, when we drink alcohol we'll mix it with other ingredients. Cocktails and specialty drinks may have juices, soda pop or even dairy….hello eggnog! All these mixes will contribute additional calories in the form of carbohydrate, proteins and fats.
Why Is There Sugar In My Wine!?
As we mentioned above, we know that wine not only contains alcohol calories but it also contains carbohydrate (sugar) calories.
Wine naturally has sugar present as its made from grapes. If the naturally occurring sugar from the grapes has not fully fermented, some residual sugar may remain. You may see the abbreviation RS on wine labels which stands for residual sugars. It's also worth mentioning that depending on the wine making process, some additional sugar may also be added. This can be done for fermentation purposes or for taste.
How Are Low Sugar Wines Made?
Alright, so now we’ve chatted about sugar, its negative effects on health, and the nutritional components of alcohol. Now, I'm excited to get to the topic at hand…low sugar wine!
Once the winemaker's have harvested the ripe grapes they will extract the juice and begin the fermentation process. The winemaker will then let the juice ferment naturally (with naturally occurring, native yeast) or will add yeast to speed up the process.
As wine ferments, the yeast (natural or added) will eat up the sugar from the grapes and transform that sugar into alcohol. The longer this process is left to continue the more sugar the yeast ferments.
How winemakers affect the sugar and alcohol content of wine.
Winemakers rarely allow for full fermentation in their wine. They will stop fermentation by adding sulfur dioxide. Sulfur dioxide kills the yeast before it can convert all the sugar to alcohol, which ultimately affects the alcohol content.
Typically, a shorter fermentation time will result in a sweeter wine, higher volume of sugar and lower alcohol content. On the flip side, a longer fermentation process results in a dry, less sweet wine, with lower sugar volume and a higher alcohol content.
So, if a winemaker is focusing on the production of low sugar wine, they will allow the wine to ferment for a long period of time; allowing the yeast to eat up most of the sugar.
It’s also worth noting that sometimes winemakers will add additional sweeteners or preservatives that affect the sugar content.
Unfortunately, American winemakers are not obligated to indicate how they've produced the wine. So we, as consumers, have to rely on our knowledge of wine to know which ones to choose. Did you know that American wine can have more than 75 different additives?! Winemakers are not obligated by law to disclose additives on the bottle, so to it's impossible for us to know which ones might have been used in the process, unless they tell us.
How Much Sugar Does Wine Actually Have?
The sugar content of wine all depends on the type of wine you choose. So, let's look at some numbers.
The residual sugars in dry wine are usually between 1 – 10 grams per liter while other types of wines may contain upwards of 120 grams of sugar per liter!
Table: Sugar Content of Wines
This table can be used as a general guide for the different levels of sugar in various wine varieties.
|Category||Variety**||Sugar Content (per 5oz glass)|
|Bone-Dry||Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadet, Sangiovese||0 -1 grams|
|Dry||Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo||0 – 2 grams|
|Off-Dry||Viognier, Chenin Blanc, Zinfandel, Malbec, Merlot||2 – 5 grams|
|Sweet||Moscato, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Lambrusco||5 – 15 grams|
|Very Sweet||Dessert Wine, Ice Wine, Port||15 – 30 grams|
Here is a great visual from Wine Folly that gives an overview of sugar content per wine type.
Which Type of Wine is Highest is Sugar?
Dessert Wines Have the Highest Amount of Sugar
If you're looking to avoid high sugar wine then you'll want to avoid dessert wines, or limit your intake. Dessert wines have high sugar content because the fermentation process is stopped early, leaving more residual sugar. Additional sugar may also have been added in the winemakers process. Another thing to watch for is a label that reads “late harvest”. This indicates that the grapes used to make the wine had a higher sugar content as they were allowed to ripen on the vines.
Semi-Sec, Demi-Sec and Dolce Wines
Wines with “semi-sec”, “demi-sec” and “dolce” will also be higher in sugar content. There will be more residual sugar that still remains after the wine has fermented.
Cheaper Wine Selections
If you are trying to reduce your intake of sugar from wine, you may want to avoid wine that is cheap to buy. Cheaper wines generally have additives such as preservatives and sweeteners. Overall, it's the age old saying….quality over quantity. And in this regard it makes the best sense for your health. Choose a wine that is higher in quality and drink a little less.
The Best Source for Low Sugar Wine
Hands down, our top pick for the best low sugar wine selection is Dry Farm Wines. Dry Farm prides themselves in offering a wide selection of low sugar wine. Allowing people to still enjoy their favorite drink without the worry or guilt about the negative health effects. This American company is the largest buyer and reseller of natural wines in the world and almost all their wines are sourced from Europe.
Dry Farm sources their wine selection from farmers who practice dry farming. This technique is where farmers limit the irrigation, or watering, of their vines. This results in the grapes having a lower level of concentrated sugar.
This farming technique does have a few downsides as the lack of irrigation can lead to less grapes being produced. That said the low sugar wine produced is delicious, dry, and healthy.
The wine sourced by Dry Farm Wines are also free from additives, chemical sprays and are fermented with native yeast. This is great news for those of us who are sensitive or allergic to things like sulfites. Dry Farm Wines makes sure that they lab-test every batch for alcohol content, sugar, and sulfur levels.
You'll be saying goodbye to hangovers and headaches with these natural selections!
So there you have it! All the details about low sugar wine and where to find the most reliable and delicious selection! Please check out the FAQ section below to help answer questions not answered above!
Here's to a enjoying a glass of healthy, hangover free wine!
As always if you have any questions, please email us as email@example.com or leave us a comment below!
Sarah + The Root & Revel Team!