Low alcohol wines are becoming more popular because they are lower calorie. There are many great quality low calorie wines that simply use not-so-sweet grapes to make a lower alcohol wine. Here is a short list to get you started thinking of the potential options without having to buy into a gimmick bulk wine label.
Discerning Drinkers Guide to Low Calorie Wine
What is a low calorie wine?
92-120 calories per glass
Based on looking at average grape must weights (the sugar level in wine grapes), low calorie wines tend to have about 92-120 calories per 5 oz (148 ml) glass. If you give yourself a larger pour of 6 oz (177 ml) we applaud you, but keep in mind the calorie count jumps up to 110-144.
The lowest alcohol dry wines range from 9-12% alcohol by volume(ABV). Some wines have less alcohol (such as Moscato d’Asti at 5.5% ABV) but they are also much sweeter.
Classic Low Alcohol White Wines
The word ‘Kabinett’ is a quality level for Riesling in Germany that is determined by the sweetness of the grapes at harvest. Many of these wines will taste sweet but only be about 8% ABV.
Gruner Veltliner Qualitätswein
‘Qualitätswein’ is an Austrian quality designation for minimum grape sweetness. Look for wines with 9-10% ABV. These wines fall under the Klassik (Classic) style and not Reserve.
The basic ‘blanc’ category in Alsace, France makes everything from Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Muscat and Sylvaner. They should be close to 9-10% ABV.
Muscadet is a appellation in France that produces a Pinot Grigio-like wine with the Melon de Bourgogne grape. Muscadet is a great dry and low alcohol wine at 9.5%. “Sur Lie” has a higher alcohol level.
Chardonnay from Chablis and Bourgogne Blanc will be around 10.5% ABV.
Bordeaux Blanc (Sec)
Bordeaux produces Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon blends and you’ll find them around 10.5% ABV. ‘Sec’ means dry.
Gavi is the Piedmontese regional name for the Italian white grape, Garganega. You’ll find these light and refreshing at close to 10.5% ABV.
Classic Low Alcohol Red Wines
These wines are made with Merlot and the other Bordeaux red varieties. Bordeaux is a little hotter so the grapes get sweeter, making the wines around 10.5-11% ABV.
Alto Adige Reds
In Northern Italy, there is one tiny region producing Cabernet Sauvignon, Lagrein, and Pinot Nero from Alto Adige, all with about 11.5% alcohol.
If you like red wine in the summer you might like a Dry Lambrusco (Secco). The off-dry style called Semisecco’ has about 20 more calories. The most popular Lambrusco sold in America, Riunite, is much sweeter with close to 150 calories.
How many calories does residual sugar add to wine?
Residual sugar is when not all the grape sugar is not converted to alcohol.
- Dry Wines have 0-6 sugar calories. (aka Sec, Secco and Sekt)
- Off-Dry Wines have 10-30 sugar calories. (aka Demi Sec, Semisecco, Abboccato)
- Sweet Wines have 30-72 sugar calories. (aka Doux, Dolce, Amabile, Dulce)
- Very Sweet Wines have 72-130 sugar calories. (aka Doux, Dolce, Amabile, Dulce)
Why do some regions produce lower calorie wines than others?
The trick to finding these wines is understanding a basic concept about agriculture: the cooler the climate, the less sweet the grapes are when ripe. This is the fundamental concept behind why a Malbec from France tastes so different than one from Mendoza, Argentina.
How the heck did you come up with these numbers?
We determined the average alcohol of these regional wines by looking up regional classifications on minimum must weight at harvest. Must weight is just jargon for how much sweetness a grape has at harvest. After figuring out the must weights, we ran a simple calculation:
Must Weight (in grams/liter) x Pour Size (.148 Liters) x 4 (calories in a gram of sugar) = Calories
These numbers are based on estimates and will change depending on the specific wine you try.