There’s been a lot of buzz lately about how sugar is bad for you and is present in a lot of the foods you eat on a daily basis, including the foods that are perceived as “healthy.” In fact, approximately 74% of packaged foods contain added sugar. Wine is no exception. While we’ve often been told that wine is one of the healthier alcoholic beverages (in fact it’s been claimed to have many health benefits), many wines, even those labeled as dry, contain some amount of residual sugar. Most of the time, these sugars are from the grapes themselves, meaning they are in the form of fructose and glucose, but they can still have impact on your health. This leads us to the question: Are there healthier options when it comes to wine?
Dry vs. Sweet
As you probably know, dry wines taste less sweet but what you probably didn’t know is that they can still contain about 10 grams of sugar per bottle. (For reference, the American Heart Association recommends no more than 36 grams of sugar per day.) Dry wines are created when the yeast within the wine is allowed to feed on all or almost all the sugars from the fruit. This process creates ethanol, a type of alcohol, as a byproduct. Sweet wines are created by preventing the yeast from eating all the sugars. This results in a higher sugar content and a lower alcohol content, and therefore an overall sweeter taste.
Determining the Amount Residual Sugar
Clearly, choosing dry wines will lower your sugar intake, but even within the dry category there are wines that contain less sugar than others, and the tricky part is identifying these wines. This is because it’s strangely hard to taste residual sugars within dry wines. This doesn’t mean they aren’t there. It just means that they are masked by other elements within the wine, such as acidity or tannins (chemical compounds found in fruit skins that give wine a bitter, complex taste.) So how do you determine if your favorite glass of wine contains a high amount of residual sugar? The best way is to examine the tech sheet of the wine. Many wineries, especially high-end ones, will provide technical notes on each vintage. Residual Sugar will be in these technical notes and will be displayed in in grams/100ml, grams/liter, or as a percentage. We suggest visiting the winery’s website or simply contacting them and asking for the technical notes on your favorite wine.
So what do you do if you can’t find these technical notes? One thing to remember is that dry red wines will have less residual sugar than whites, but dry whites such as quality dry Rieslings or Sauvignon Blancs can be a healthier option. Another rule to follow is that premium wines will contain less sugar than cheap wines. The main reason for this is that the original grapes are usually higher quality for premium wines, and therefore need less sugar in order to taste good. Lastly, one final note for keeping wine healthy: moderation is key.
Most wine is 1-3% sugar. The bigger issue is how the body converts the 11-14% alcohol back to sugar. A balanced diet is important, these natural sugars are better that than a slice of cake in my view. I prefer to drink my calories. The research on good heart health and lower cholesterol offset most concerns about sugar. Just don’t drink a whole bottle, and not expect to gain a few lbs.
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