Is sake less calories than wine?

Sake and wine are two popular alcoholic beverages with distinctly different histories and cultural associations. Sake originated in Japan over 2,000 years ago and is considered the national drink, while wine has much deeper roots in Western culture dating back thousands of years to ancient Greece and Rome.

Despite their differences, sake and wine do share some similarities. Both are brewed from ingredients that contain natural sugars – rice in the case of sake, and grapes for wine. Through fermentation by yeast, the sugars are converted to alcohol. The final alcohol content for most sakes and wines falls in the range of 14-16%.

When it comes to calories, does one of these alcoholic beverages have an advantage over the other? There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about the calorie content of sake and wine, so let’s take a detailed look at the facts.

Calorie content of sake vs wine

At first glance, sake would appear to have an advantage over wine when counting calories. Sake is brewed from rice, whereas wine is made from grapes. Fruits like grapes inherently contain more natural sugars than grains like rice. Since the sugar content translates directly to alcohol – and calories – after fermentation, wine has a reputation for being higher in calories.

But when you look at standard serving sizes, this calorie disadvantage for wine is not as pronounced as many assume. Let’s compare calories per serving:

– 5 oz (150 ml) serving of red wine: 125 calories
– 5 oz (150 ml) serving of white wine: 121 calories
– 1.5 oz (45 ml) serving of sake: 100 calories

Red wine does have slightly more calories than white wine, due to the grape varieties used. But a typical serving of sake is only 45 ml (1.5 oz), compared to a 150 ml (5 oz) serving of wine. When adjusting for serving size, sake and wine have remarkably similar calorie content.

This means the idea that sake is dramatically lower in calories than wine is not entirely accurate. A smaller serving of sake contains fewer calories, but the calorie density – the number of calories per ounce of alcohol – is comparable between sake and wine.

Factors impacting calorie content

Within the categories of sake and wine, there can be quite a wide range of calorie content depending on these factors:

Alcohol percentage

Unsurprisingly, a beverage’s alcohol percentage is directly correlated with its calorie content. Each gram of alcohol contains 7 calories.

Sake typically contains between 14-16% alcohol. The alcohol content of wine is similar but can vary more widely, from about 9% for lighter wines to over 15% for fuller-bodied options. Lower alcohol wines will have fewer calories, while higher alcohol wines contain more.

Residual sugar

In the fermentation process that turns grape or rice sugars into alcohol, not all sugars are fully converted to alcohol. The leftover sugar that remains is called residual sugar.

Sakes are generally dry, with little to no residual sugar. Wines, however, can range from very dry to very sweet. Sweet wines have much more residual sugar, which translates to higher calories.

Here are some examples of calorie differences related to residual sugar:

– Dry white wine: 118 calories per 5 oz
– Sweet white wine: 165 calories per 5 oz

Serving sizes

As noted earlier, sakes are traditionally served in smaller serving sizes than wine. A typical sake serving is just 45 ml (1.5 oz), while a standard wine pour is about 150 ml (5 oz). So even though their calorie densities are similar, a smaller serving size means less calories per individual serving of sake.

Specific calorie counts

Looking at some specific calorie counts for popular sakes and wines highlights the similarities:


Sho Chiku Bai Classic Junmai Sake – 100 calories per 1.5 oz serving
Gekkeikan Black & Gold Sake – 100 calories per 1.5 oz serving
Ty Ku Cucumber & Honey Junmai Sake – 90 calories per 1.5 oz serving


Woodbridge Chardonnay – 123 calories per 5 oz glass
Beringer White Zinfandel – 120 calories per 5 oz glass
Cavit Pinot Grigio – 123 calories per 5 oz glass

As you can see, for typical servings of these popular sake and wine choices, the calorie counts are quite close. The serving size difference between sake and wine is the main variable.

Comparing carbs in sake vs wine

Another consideration beyond calories is carbohydrate content. Let’s look at how sake and wine compare:

– Sake: Between 0-2 grams of carbs per serving
– Red wine: Around 3.8 grams of carbs per 5 oz glass
– White wine: Around 2.7 grams of carbs per 5 oz glass

The carbohydrate content of both beverages is low, but sake generally contains fewer carbs than wine. Again, the smaller serving size also means fewer total grams of carbs in an individual serving of sake.

The sugars present in wine come from the natural sugars in grapes that are not fully converted to alcohol during fermentation. Sake contains less residual sugars, resulting in a lower carb count.

Tips for reducing calories and carbs when drinking sake or wine

While the calorie and carb differences between sake and wine are modest, there are still ways you can reduce your intake if you want to enjoy these drinks more frequently without extra calories:

– Stick to a 1.5 oz serving of sake instead of having it refilled multiple times. This moderate serving has around 100 calories.
– Choose hot sake instead of cold. The alcohol content of hot sake is slightly lower.
– For wine, opt for 5 oz pours instead of having the glass topped off.
– Select lighter, drier wines like Pinot Grigio or dry Riesling rather than sweet wines.
– Alternate each glass of wine with water to pace yourself and avoid overconsumption.
– Make spritzers by adding seltzer water to wine or sake. Try a 3:1 ratio of seltzer to alcohol.
– Eat before and while drinking. Having food in your stomach helps control portions of alcohol.

Health impacts of sake vs wine

When consumed in moderation, both sake and wine can be part of a healthy diet and lifestyle. Here are some of the potential health benefits:

Heart health – Numerous studies suggest moderate wine consumption may improve heart health by increasing HDL (good) cholesterol and reducing the risk of blood clots. Sake may offer similar benefits.
Anti-aging antioxidants – Wine is rich in antioxidants like resveratrol, which fight aging and cellular damage. Sake contains antioxidants as well, including gallic acid and vanillic acid.
Anti-inflammatory effects – The alcohol and antioxidants in wine and sake exhibit anti-inflammatory properties that may help prevent certain illnesses.
Probiotics – Sake is brewed with a fungus called Aspergillus oryzae, which may provide probiotic benefits to the digestive system.
Lowered stroke and cataract risk – Moderate drinking of wine and sake may reduce the likelihood of strokes and cataracts.

However, any potential benefits must be weighed against the health risks, which go up with excessive alcohol intake:

– Liver disease
– Certain cancers
– Heart problems
– Interference with medications
– Alcoholism

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans define moderate drinking as up to 1 drink per day for women and 2 for men. One drink is equivalent to 5 oz wine, 1.5 oz sake, 12 oz beer, or 1.5 oz spirits. Sticking within these limits can allow you to enjoy sake or wine as part of an overall healthy lifestyle.

Sake vs wine: Which has the advantage for flavor and pairing ability?

When it comes to providing enjoyment alongside a great meal, both sake and wine have unique advantages. Here is a look at how they compare:


– Tends to pair very well with Japanese and Asian-inspired dishes that use soy sauce, ginger, wasabi and other flavorings also present in sake.

– Can complement and accentuate umami flavors better than wine due to similarity of ingredients.

– Pairs well with sushi, sashimi, dumplings, stir fry and Japanese grilled dishes. Versatile with many foods.

– Subtle, delicate flavors won’t overwhelm dishes. Complex flavors like ginjo sake can beautifully accentuate food.

– Can be served hot or cold to suit the dining situation. Hot sake brings out more aromas.


– Wider range of bolder flavors such as oak, fruit and tannins allow pairing with spicy, hearty, or salty dishes.

– Regional wines have evolved alongside regional cuisines, creating ideal pairings like Italian Chianti with pasta dishes.

– Texture and acidity of wines can complement rich, creamy or buttery sauces.

– Bouquet of aromas from wine can accentuate flavors of herbs, spices, vegetables and meats.

– Temperature serving range allows wine to be chilled, room temp or warmed to match the food.

While sake has some advantages for Eastern dishes and wine for Western cuisines, there is also a great deal of crossover. Sake can pair nicely with cheesy or creamy dishes, and wine works well with sushi and Asian food too. Both beverages can make excellent companions to enhance the dining experience.

Sake vs wine: Which is easier to drink in larger quantities?

Due to the smaller serving size, sake may at first seem easier to drink larger quantities of over a drinking session. However, this is somewhat misleading.

While you can quickly throw back multiple 1.5 oz shots of sake in quick succession, the effects of alcohol intake catch up rapidly. Sake’s high alcohol content per volume means it can quickly cause inebriation if large quantities are consumed.

Wine served in 5 oz pours delivers alcohol to the bloodstream more slowly. The larger volume causes you to drink more slowly, while the liquid itself slows absorption compared to concentrated shots of liquor. This makes it easier to comfortably drink several glasses of wine over a long meal.

However, neither beverage is healthier if consumed in excess. Binge drinking and heavy overconsumption of any alcoholic drink carries risks and should be avoided. Moderation is key for both sake and wine.


When it comes to calories, carbs, flavors and pairing versatility, sake and wine are on remarkably even ground, with a few minor differences:

– The small serving size of sake leads to slightly fewer calories and carbs than the standard wine pour. But their calorie densities are quite similar.

– Sake may pair best with Japanese/Asian dishes, and wine with Western cuisines. But both can complement a wide range of foods.

– Sake’s crispness allows it to be drunk more easily and quickly. But wine consumed slowly over a meal may make it easier to drink greater volumes.

– Potential health benefits of both beverages depend on moderate intake. Risks go up dramatically with excessive consumption.

Rather than viewing sake and wine as completely separate beverages, it is perhaps more useful to think of them on a spectrum. While they have distinct histories and brewing methods, their alcohol content, calorie counts and versatility in pairing with food are quite comparable.

Both can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet when consumption is kept to moderate levels. By understanding their similarities as well as differences, we can better appreciate when to enjoy each one for maximum flavor and minimum calories.

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