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Sugar-Free Wine: Yay or Nay?

Love your vino but not the carbs and calories? Big and boutique wineries are now selling “sugar-free” and “keto-friendly” varieties, but are they just running a marketing scheme or is this low-calorie vino worth switching to? After all, winemaking is the process of turning sugar into alcohol — how can it be sugar free?

The Case for Nay

It can’t be, says Caroline Conner, a British-American certified sommelier and Associate of the Institute of Wine & Spirits in London, who runs CaroVin Lyon Wine Tastings tours in the south of France. “Sugar free wine is a marketing con that relies on hoodwinking customers who have zero knowledge of wine or even basic fermentation.

“The vast majority of wine is ‘sugar free,’ meaning dry wine, where the natural sugars from the grape juice have fully fermented into alcohol. Lower-alcohol wines will be lower in calories, because the alcohol is what the sugar became. Adding sugar to grape juice is called chaptalization and is highly regulated throughout the global wine business and really only allowed in cold places. It’s done before fermentation to help increase the final alcohol levels with unripe grapes,” she explains, adding that “any winery who has a marketing budget big enough to come up with this [sugar-free] nonsense isn’t a wine I’d recommend anyway.”

The Case for Yay — Sort Of

Regardless of the inaccuracy of the claims of sugar free, low carb, and keto friendly, there are lower-calorie wines — some as low as 100 calories per 6-ounce glass. Regular reds tend to be higher in calories than white wines, with syrahs and pinot noirs coming in at 200-plus calories per glass due to their high alcohol content. Lighter reds typically run 135 to 170 calories per glass, with white wine varieties coming in between 130 and 160 calories. Across reds and whites, a glass of wine averages 4 grams of net carbs.

The Verdict

If you’re unwilling to give up your wine but want to shave some calories, low-carb wines can be a good option. Fearing they might not taste very good, we did a taste test and came up with five lower-calorie wines we like.

The Vice low-calorie wine

 

The Vice Pinot Noir Rosé: subtle aromas of raspberries, strawberries, watermelon, and banana — and bright acidity.

Bellissima low-calorie wine

Bellisima Zero Sugar Sparkling Wine: hints of grapefruit and white flowers; velvety, dry, and pleasantly acidic. 

Fitvine low-calorie wine

FitVine Syrah: aromas of blackberry, black pepper, and mint, with an earthen flavor.

En Memoire low-calorie wine

En Mémoire du Malbec: full-bodied aromas of black fruits, spices, and oaky vanilla.

Cupcake Chardonnay low-calorie wine

Cupcake Vineyards Chardonnay: creamy notes of apple, vanilla, and lemon, with a hint of toasted almond.  

Dry Farm Wines: want to try a bunch of stuff and find out for yourself what you like? This wine club membership — $159 for a monthly six-bottle subscription  — sends a variety of low-carb vino right to your door.

Photos: Top, RG Studio; all others courtesy of the vendors

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