Are you worried about the sugar content in wine? With so many of us following low sugar diets or omitting it altogether, a concern about sugar levels in wines could mean the kiss of death for your nightly glass of wine. But it doesn’t have to be.
In fact, you don’t have to veto vino at all, you just have to know how to choose low sugar wine.
Which wine has the least amount of sugar?
The amount of sugar in a bottle of wine can vary from 4 grams to 220 grams per litre.
The lowest sugar wine is red wine.
- Red wine has the least amount of sugar which is 0.9g per 175ml glass.
What about sugar content in white wine or rose wine?
- A dry white wine such as Riesling has around 1.4g per 175ml glass.
- Rose wine can have between 35 and 120 grams of sugar per glass.
- Dessert wine has around 7g per serving – the same as a glass of Coke.
These numbers are confusing, but sugar content in wine can be confusing. Isn’t wine just fermented grapes?
Well, yes and no.
Yes, there is sugar content in wine, and also no, there isn’t necessarily added sugar (although some wines do have it). Confused?
Hear us out.
How much sugar is in wine?
How and why the White Stuff varies between different types of wine? How to know which wine is the lowest sugar wine? There are different amounts of sugar in different types of wine.
Wine contains residual sugar, and it’s just part and parcel of drinking wine, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your wine has had sugar added in. The naturally occurring sugars in the grapes are eaten by the yeast and turned into ethanol – the alcohol, as a by-product during the fermentation process.
- Dry white and dry red wines
Essentially, the dryer a wine, the less sugar it has as the yeast has eaten all the sugars in the grapes. Dry wines have lower residual sugar levels, ranging from 1 to 3 grams per litre of wine.
Popular dry white wines
- Sauvignon Blanc
- Pinot Gris
- Chenin Blanc
- Ice Wine
Popular dry red wines
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Pinot Noir
- Lambrusco Dolce
Interested in finding out how long can red wine be open? Learn how long does red wine last once opened.
- Sparkling wine
Sparkling wines have 6 to 20 grams of sugar per litre of wine (the residual sugar range will be in the 0.6 to 2.0 percent per litre). So sparkling wines with the lowest sugar levels are extra dry sparkling wines – think brut.
- Fortified wine
Fortified wines can have 150 grams per litre, which means that your favourite Port, Sherry, or Marsala can have as high as 15 percent residual sugar.
- Semi-dry wine
Semi-dry wines (off-dry wines) such as Rieslings, White Zinfandel, Chenin Blanc, which contain a trace of residual sugar that remains after the fermentation is completed and most rose wines (semi-sweet ) can have 10-50 grams of sugar per litre.
- How much sugar is in dessert wine?
A sweet wine is the result of the yeast not eating all the sugar, leaving sugar in the final wine, which is why sweet white wines (8% ABV) have less alcohol than dry reds (14% ABV). Dessert wines can have a whopping 200 grams (or more) per litre.
What does that look like for your recommended daily allowance (RDA) of sugar intake?
It’s advised that women consume just 6 teaspoons of sugar a day, men 9 teaspoons. 1 teaspoon is the equivalent of 4g of sugar.
Sugar content in wine, alcohol and calories: low sugar wine vs low calorie wine
Unlike the food labelling laws, wine manufacturers aren’t required (by law) to list ingredients on their wines, just allergens. How can you know about calories in wine if the nutritional information isn’t available on the wine label?
The higher the alcohol content of the wine, the less residual sugar it contains, but the more calories the wine has.
This might sound counter to the above advice knowing that lower alcohol means higher sugar content, but the lower the alcohol content, the fewer the calories.
- Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram.
- Carbohydrates (i.e. sugar) contains 4 calories per gram.
Meaning the higher the alcohol content of your wine, the higher the calorie count of your wine.
- White wine tends to have a lower alcohol content than red wine, making it low-calorie alcohol in comparison.
- Sparkling wine like champagne is the ultimate low-calorie alcohol – always opt for the brut nature version as this also has the least sugar of all too.
Opt for a wine with lower alcohol content if you are looking for a wine with fewer calories. Also, learn more about calories in a bottle of wine.
How to measure alcohol content in wine
But how do you know what the alcohol content in your wine is (if you don’t have a label?) One way is to measure it.
The easiest way to measure alcohol content in wine is by using a hydrometer. A hydrometer measures the specific gravity of the wine.
If you’re homebrewing, a hydrometer measures the alcohol by volume (ABV) in fermenting wine, by measuring the amount of sugar being turned into alcohol. The more sugar you have in your liquid, the higher the reading. As sugar becomes alcohol, the reading (gravity level) falls.
How many units in a bottle of wine
To figure out how many units there are in your bottle of wine, you need to know the wine’s alcohol by volume (ABV). You can find this information printed on the label – it will say a number followed by %.
You can work out the units in a bottle of wine by a simple formula:
- Alcohol unit calculator
(ABV x ml) / 1000 = number of units
I.e. if you want to know how many units your 13% ABV 250ml glass of red wine has, it’s:
(13 x 250) / 1000 – 3.25 units.
Just FYI – the recommended number of alcohol units per week for both men and women is 14 units. This equates to approximately 1.5 bottles of 12% ABV wine.
But, why is sugar added to wine?
Some winemakers need to add sugar when they use under-ripe grapes to make their wine – not to make wine more sweet, but to enable yeasts to produce more alcohol (at least this was the original idea of Jean-Antoine Chaptal, French chemist who discovered the process). This process is called chaptalization, where cane or beet sugar is added to the crushed grapes before the grapes ferment in order to increase the alcohol by volume (ABV) of the final wine.
So, more sugar content in wine = more alcohol by volume.
Chaptalization is illegal in some countries or states in the US where they can routinely grow grapes with naturally occurring higher sugar content. Chaptalization is not allowed in:
- South Africa
In cooler countries and winemaking regions that are notorious for growing grapes with low sugar content is legal to add sugar to wine to increase the alcohol levels.
Chaptalization is legal in:
- France (Northern regions of France)
- Some states in the US
All the more reason to buy quality natural wine
If you’re following the keto diet, or you’re diabetic, or you’re just trying to reduce your sugar intake for health reasons, knowing which wine has the lowest amount of sugar is going to help you make wise wine choices.