Which type of wine has the least calories?

With growing health consciousness, many people are looking to cut calories wherever they can. For wine lovers, one area of interest is finding varietals and styles that are lower in calories. When comparing the most popular types of wine, which has the least amount of calories per glass? Let’s take a look at the calorie counts in different wines to find the lightest options.

The Calorie Content of Wine

Before diving into specifics, it’s helpful to understand where the calories in wine come from. The main sources are:

  • Alcohol – Ethanol (the type of alcohol in wine) provides 7 calories per gram.
  • Carbohydrates – The sugar content in wine also adds calories, about 4 calories per gram.

Dry wines tend to be lower in calories because they have little to no residual sugar. Sweeter wines with more carbohydrates will be higher in calories. Fortified wines like port also have added alcohol, boosting the calorie count.

In general, lighter bodied white wines tend to be lowest in calories. Heavier reds and sweet dessert wines have the most. But even within varietals, winemaking practices make a difference. Let’s explore some of the most popular types of wine and their typical calorie content per 5 ounce glass:

Light White Wines

  • Pinot Grigio – 123 calories
  • White Zinfandel – 121 calories
  • Sauvignon Blanc – 122 calories
  • Chardonnay – 123 calories
  • Riesling – 118 calories
  • Prosecco (sparkling wine) – 114 calories

These white wine varietals are generally low in alcohol (around 11-13%) and residual sugar. A 5 ounce pour contains 120 calories on average. If you’re looking for the lightest white wine, pinot grigio and Riesling edge out as winners.

Full-Bodied White Wines

  • Chardonnay (oaked) – 127 calories
  • Viognier – 130 calories
  • Chenin Blanc – 130 calories
  • Sauvignon Blanc (higher ABV) – 128 calories

While still relatively low in calories for wine, fuller-bodied whites average a bit higher at around 128 calories per glass. The main driver is often a slightly higher alcohol percentage. Barrel-aged wines like oaked chardonnay also pick up a bit more from the oak. But these are still excellent lower calorie options for white wine lovers.

Light Red Wines

  • Pinot Noir – 125 calories
  • Gamay (Beaujolais) – 127 calories
  • Grenache – 131 calories
  • Red Blends (light-bodied) – 130 calories

Delicate reds like Pinot Noir and Gamay have about 125-130 calories per glass. They tend to be light in tannins and alcohol (often 12-13%). Spanish Grenache and blends based on light varietals are also lower-calorie options. For reds, stick to young wines and avoid oaked, full-bodied styles.

Full-Bodied Red Wines

  • Cabernet Sauvignon – 152 calories
  • Merlot – 150 calories
  • Malbec – 150 calories
  • Zinfandel – 150 calories
  • Petite Sirah – 152 calories
  • Red Blends (full-bodied) – 155 calories

The bold, aromatic reds clock in a bit higher at 150 calories on average. They tend to be higher in alcohol and tannins, which translates to more calories. Dry red blends, Malbec, Cabernet and other full-flavored varietals still make the cut for reasonable calorie wines.

Sweet and Fortified Wines

  • Port – 203 calories
  • Sweet Riesling – 165 calories
  • Moscato (sparkling) – 157 calories
  • Lambrusco – 150 calories
  • Sauternes (sweet Bordeaux) – 167 calories
  • Ice Wine – 220 calories

Sweet wines have extra sugar, which means extra calories. Dessert wines like Port weigh in around 200 calories per glass. Sweet Rieslings, Moscato and Lambrusco are lower-calorie sweet wine options. Bottom line – if you want something sweet, be prepared for a higher calorie pour.

Factors that Affect Wine Calories

Beyond grape varietal, several factors impact the number of calories in your glass of wine:

Alcohol Content

Since ethanol provides the majority of wine calories, ABV makes a big difference. Table wines range from 9-15% alcohol. As you go higher in alcohol, calories increase:

  • 12% ABV – ~125 calories per 5 oz glass
  • 13% ABV – ~130 calories per 5 oz glass
  • 14% ABV – ~140 calories per 5 oz glass
  • 15% ABV – ~150 calories per 5 oz glass

Fortified wines like Port may contain 20% ABV or more, putting their calorie counts through the roof in comparison.

Residual Sugar

Natural grape sugar also impacts calories. Dry wines have under 0.5% residual sugar. Off-dry wines up to around 4% sugar add more calories. Dessert wines start at over 5% sugar. Examples:

  • Dry Riesling – 118 calories (0.5% sugar)
  • Off-Dry Riesling – 140 calories (3% sugar)
  • Late Harvest Riesling – 180 calories (7% sugar)

For the lightest wines, stay dry.

Winemaking Methods

Certain winemaking techniques boost calories slightly:

  • Oak aging – Barrel fermentation/aging adds flavors and a slightly higher ABV (+5-10 calories)
  • Malolactic fermentation – This secondary fermentation adds body and richness (+5-15 calories)
  • Lees aging – Lees are residual yeast cells that add body (+5-10 calories)
  • Bubbles – Effervescence requires an extra fermentation (+5-20 calories)

In general, lighter styles have fewer calories. Simple, unoaked wines with little intervention tend to have less added calories.

Serving Size – 5 ounces

The standard restaurant pour for wine is 5 ounces. This serving size holds true when calculating calories. Some key points on wine serving sizes:

  • A 750 mL bottle contains approximately 5 glasses of wine.
  • Jumbo glasses can hold much more than 5 ounces – up to 22 ounces for a large Cabernet glass!
  • If you fill your glass to the brim, chances are it’s more than one serving.

For the calorie counts listed, a 5 ounce pour is assumed. But beware the generous glass pour, especially at home. Oversized wine glasses combined with topping up your glass can quickly double or triple the calories you consume. Moderation is key for light, low-calorie enjoyment.

Lower Calorie Alternatives

If you’re trying to cut back, there are some alternatives to higher calorie wines:

1. Try “Light” Wines

Some producers intentionally make low-calorie or lower alcohol wines. They still deliver plenty of flavor, but cut down on calories. Popular light wine options:

  • Skinny Vine – 100 calories (4% ABV)
  • FitnessVine – 90 calories (9.5% ABV)
  • Trim – 60-75 calories (5.5-8% ABV)

2. Choose Low-alcohol Wine

Regular table wines average around 12-14% ABV. But you can also find quality wines closer to 10-11%, which cuts back on calories:

  • Scarpetta Frico Lambrusco – 11% ABV
  • Domaine Bousquet Gaia Red Blend – 11% ABV
  • Rare Vineyards Vinho Verde – 10.5% ABV

3. Try Dealcoholized or Non-alcoholic Wine

When alcohol is removed, you can eliminate up to 100 calories per glass. Popular low- and no-alcohol brands include:

  • Fre Wines – 60 calories or less (alcohol-removed)
  • Ariel Vineyards – 60-85 calories (low-alcohol)
  • Sutter Home Fre – 99 calories (non-alcoholic)

4. Mix with Seltzer

For a delicious spritzer, mix 3 ounces of wine with 2-3 ounces of seltzer water. This cuts calories by diluting the wine a bit. Benefit – you still get the wine flavor with fewer calories and a refreshing fizz.

5. Alternate Drinks

If you’re looking to control calories, alternating alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks is an easy strategy. Enjoy a glass of wine, then follow it with seltzer or iced tea. Not only does this help pace your alcohol intake, but it automatically cuts your calories in half.

Tips for Choosing Low Calorie Wine

With so many options on store shelves, how do you pick a lower calorie wine? Here are some helpful strategies:

  • Check alcohol percentage – Lower ABV means fewer calories.
  • Select lighter styles – Light reds and crisp whites are naturally lower cal.
  • Compare label nutrition facts – When available, choose the wine with fewer calories.
  • Go for unoaked, stainless steel wines – These tend to be lighter and lower calorie.
  • Choose younger, fruity wines – Fresh and vibrant youthful wines are often lower calorie.
  • Buy from calorie-conscious regions – Wines from Oregon, Washington, New Zealand and parts of Italy emphasize lighter styles.
  • Stick to 5 ounce pours – Measure carefully to avoid overpouring.
  • Drink intentionally – Sip slowly and make smart choices when calories matter.

The Bottom Line

When comparing popular wine types, dry whites and light reds come in lowest for calories. Heavier wines and sweeter styles are highest. But with so many grape varieties and production methods, calorie values can range widely.

On average, most light-bodied table wines have around 120-130 calories in a standard 5-ounce glass. Full-bodied reds come in a bit higher at 150 calories, while sweet and fortified wines top 200 calories. Factors like alcohol content, residual sugar, winemaking techniques and serving size impact a wine’s calories.

If you’re conscious of calories, go for lighter, dry, low-alcohol wines in a reasonable 5 ounce pour. Alternate with spritzers and non-alcoholic drinks as desired. With awareness and moderation, wine lovers can still enjoy their favorite glass of wine as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

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