Carbs in Wine: Can You Still Drink Wine on a Low-Carb Diet?

Carbs in Wine: Can You Still Drink Wine on a Low-Carb Diet?

McKenzie Hagan |

If you’re trying to limit your carb intake, you may think that wine is off the table. Luckily for you and wine lovers around the world, you can enjoy wine without overloading on carbs. The trick is knowing which type of wine to choose.

In this article, we guide you through everything you need to know about carbs in red wine and white wine and alert you to some of the things you may need to watch out for.

Why Are There Carbs in Wine?

During the winemaking process, the naturally occurring sugars in grapes ferment with yeast to create alcohol. However, during this fermentation process, any unfermented sugar remains in the wine. This leftover sugar is called residual sugar, which becomes the carbs in wine.

As you may have guessed, wines that have lower sugar content during production also have fewer grams of carbohydrates per glass.

Traditional winemaking methods, such as those used by Usual Wines, steer clear of adding extra sugars and artificial sweeteners to wine as it ferments. However, cheaper, mass-produced brands often do this as a way to alter the flavors and speed up fermentation. It’s a process known as chaptalization and it’s only legal in certain regions around the world.

On the other hand, Usual Wines are made in small batches, using the best tried-and-tested techniques. If you’re trying to avoid carbs, stay away from commercial winemakers.

How Do the Carbs in Wine Compare to Other Alcoholic Drinks?
Rose bottle on a white sheet next to a single cherry and Pellegrino

Wine is reasonably low-carb compared to other alcoholic beverages. Distilled spirits on their own are low-carb because the sugar has been distilled out, leaving only alcohol. However, most cocktails and mixed drinks are paired with high-sugar juices, sodas, and syrups. Long Island Iced Teas, for example, contain cola, lemon juice, and simple syrup, taking its carb level to 33 grams per 8.3 ounces.

Beer is another drink that isn’t the most friendly for a low-carb diet since starch is one of its primary ingredients. A 12-ounce can of beer has a carb content of more than 12 grams.

Wine can have varying carb count, too. Some dessert wines have 14 grams of carbs per regular serving size. However, there is a wide range of wines, all with different flavors, alcohol levels, and carb content.

How Can You Tell If a Wine Is High-Carb?

If you’re on a low-carb or keto diet, wine labels can be confusing. While most food and drink labels will clearly display the calorie, carb, and sugar content, wine doesn’t.

To help you better understand how to read labels on your hunt for low-carb wines, here are several different terms you need to keep an eye on.

What to Avoid

Eiswein or Ice Wine: Eiswein is made from pressing frozen grapes. This process results in a highly concentrated, high-sugar wine. While these wines are delicious, they’re incredibly sweet and very high in carbohydrates.

Late Harvest or Spätlese: Late-harvest wines are wines made from grapes that were left longer on the vine. These grapes are high in sugar, resulting in a sweeter wine with more carbs. Late-harvest wines are called spätlese in German.

Dessert Wine: Otherwise known as sweet wines, dessert wines are tooth-achingly sugary. They pair beautifully with sweet puddings and desserts, providing a delightful combination of flavors that elevate your dining experience. However, if you're watching your carb intake, it's advisable to consider what to eat with wine and avoid these treats in your selection.

Fortified Wine : Wines such as Port, Madeira, and sherry are examples of fortified wine. These are created with high levels of alcohol, which kills off yeast during fermentation, leaving more residual sugar. They’re great when paired with cheese, but they’re bad news if you want a low-carb wine.

Süss or Doux: Sweetness comes in many languages. Süss is the German word for sweet and doux is the French equivalent. Demi-sec and dulce also indicate the wine is on the sweet side.

What to Choose

Sec or Trocken: Sec is French for dry, meaning it has lower sugar content. Trocken is the German equivalent.

Brut or Extra Brut: Brut is the term to describe a dry Champagne or sparkling wine. Brut wines usually have as little as 0-12 grams of sugar per liter.

Brut Nature: Brut Nature is the lowest level of sugar you can get for sparkling wine, with a mere 0-3 grams of sugar per liter.

Which Wine Has the Lowest Carbs?
Carbs in wine: Variety of Usual Wines next to shrimp cocktail

Whether you’re cutting down on carbs for the health benefits, weight loss, or other reasons, a glass of wine can still be part of your life.

The good news is that an average glass of wine, say Pinot Noir or Chardonnay, has just over 3 grams of net carbs per 5-ounce serving. Compare that to a piña colada, with a hefty 43 grams of carbs per serving, and it seems wine is the way to go.

The bad news is that not all wine is created equal. While brut or dry sparkling wines have just a single gram of carbs per serving, full-bodied reds such as Burgundy have over 5 grams.

As a general rule of thumb, full-bodied red wines such as Malbec, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Zinfandel tip the scale in regards to carbs. Meanwhile, dry white wines such as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and Brut Champagne or sparkling wines are lower in carbs.

If you simply can’t resist a glass of red wine, go for lighter-bodied reds such as Pinot Noir or Syrah. These weigh in at a reasonable 3.4 grams of carbs per glass.

Can You Stay Healthy While Drinking Wine?

While some research shows that alcohol consumption can increase weight gain, keep in mind that the odd glass of wine is not going to completely ruin your low-carb or ketogenic diet.

The key is to be mindful of what you’re drinking and what you’re eating. One survey found that people who drink alcohol don’t just ingest the calories in wine — they also consume extra calories while drinking.

That said, studies show that drinking red wine in moderation is good for your health, particularly heart health. When it comes to alcohol consumption, drinking in moderation means a glass of wine per week.

While sweet wines and full-bodied wines are wonderful, it’s probably best to save these for special occasions and opt for lighter-bodied options with low sugar content.

Cut the Carbs While Drinking the Wines You Love
Carbs in wine: Person holds Usual Wines red

Just because you’re watching your carb count doesn’t mean you have to miss out on all the fun. Remember to limit full-bodied reds and sweet wines, and opt for lighter-bodied reds such as Pinot Noir. For the best low-carb, high flavor experience, choose dry wines such as sparkling brut or Sauvignon Blanc.

And don’t forget that as with so many things in life, moderation is key — in this case, a glass of wine a week. By making a few adjustments and knowing what to look for, you can still enjoy the wine you love and achieve your health goals.

A Tip for Dining Out: Ask for Advice

When you're dining out and looking for a low-carb wine option, don't hesitate to ask your server or sommelier for advice. They can often provide valuable insight into which wines on their list have lower carb content, helping you make an informed decision.

Remember to Balance Your Diet

While it's important to be mindful of your carb intake, also remember to maintain a balanced diet. Incorporate plenty of fresh vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats into your meals. This way, even if you do indulge in a glass of wine, your overall dietary choices will help support your health and weight management goals.