Dumbbells and runners on a "healthy" wine bottle—legit, or just a marketing ploy?

By Ashley Mateo
Photo: FitVine Wine

Fact: People are drinking more wine than ever before (there's been a 25 percent increase in gallons consumed over the past decade). Another fact: Alcohol contains a lot of empty calories and can lead to increased weight gain, poor fitness recovery, and long-term brain deterioration. So it makes sense that our keto-obsessed, clean-eating, health-focused society would crave healthier wine options. (Even if wine does have some health benefits.)

Enter: FitVine, a "healthy" wine company that claims to help you "crush life." (There's even a runner on the bottle.) But is it actually any healthier? Here, a FitVine wine review that dives into the ways this "healthy" wine is (and isn't) different from "regular" wine.

Sugar

FitVine says their wines average less than 0.09 grams of sugar per glass-which is pretty low, depending on what kind of wine you usually drink. Is that enough to make it a low-sugar wine?

First, a little wine education: The residual sugar in wine comes from the natural sugars (fructose and glucose) found in wine grapes, says Lauren Cadillac, R.D. The longer grapes are on the vine, the stronger the sugar content becomes, explains Mark R. Warren, the president of FitVine. The fermentation process-and the type of wine-affects how much sugar is in the wine too: "In some 'dry wines,' yeast will convert all of the sugar into alcohol during the winemaking process," says Cadillac. "In other wines, not all of the sugar is fermented, which leaves you with a sweeter wine."

That's how FitVine naturally makes their wine lower in sugar: "We pick our grapes a little early, and we ferment to dry (meaning there's no sugar left to ferment) from five to up to 15 days," says Warren. By comparison, he says, massive wine conglomerates can bottle wine in just one to two days using additives that speed things up. (Related: Your Guide to Drinking Alcohol On the Keto Diet)

Most times, the amount of residual sugar depends on where the wine is from. "The bigger and more ­fruit-forward the wine, the more likely you have some residual sugar," says Keith Wallace, founder of the Wine School of Philadelphia. As a rule of thumb, you can expect wines from cooler climates to have residual sugar closer to zero. For example, a pinot noir from Burgundy, France, will have only a trace amount of sugar; a Sonoma Zinfandel may have up to 3 grams per liter of residual sugar (about 0.4g per 5-ounce glass); while a sweet Moscato can have 64 grams per liter of residual sugar (about 9g per 5-ounce glass), he explains.

FYI: "According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a 5-ounce glass of red table wine usually contains around 0.9 grams of total sugar, while a glass of chardonnay contains about 1.4 grams," explains Cadillac. So, although the difference between the above-mentioned Zinfandel and Moscato may seem huge, there's not always a big difference in sugar levels between varietals. (Here's more about how to buy low-carb wines and which ones to try.)

Calories

You can't talk about sugar without talking about calories. Wines marketed as "diet" wines can be about 15 to 30 percent lower in calories than standard wine, says Cadillac. (FitVine wines have between 92 and 120 calories per glass; regular wines range between 90 and 230 calories.) "This could save about 30 calories a drink," she explains. "So if you're someone who consumes a lot of wine throughout the week, this can add up to a few hundred calories over time." But if you're just a "glass every now and then" type of drinker, 30 calories won't really move the needle, she adds. (Related: Can You Drink Alcohol and Still Lose Weight?)

Alcohol By Volume

The reason the calories in wine add up is because of the alcohol. "You can't escape calories, because pure ethyl alcohol has about seven calories per gram," says Wallace. "Every gram of sugar or carbohydrate has about four calories as well. So the best way to reduce your calorie count is to consume low­-alcohol wines without any residual sugar." (A decent pinot grigio from Italy or an albariño from Spain are great options, he adds.)

FitVine's ABV (alcohol by volume) ranges from 13.4 percent to 13.9 percent, which is similar to other wines. But Warren says the company's extended fermentation process naturally lowers the sugar levels without lowering the alcohol. "That was the key because we didn't want to make a low-alcohol wine that doesn't taste good," he adds. (If you're okay with reducing the alcohol content, try these low-ABV cocktails.)

Reducing the calories in wine makes it lighter in body and less rich tasting, says Wallace. It would also likely be higher in acidity, which affects the taste because they're harvesting less-ripe grapes. To maintain the taste of their wines without adding sugar, FitVine optimizes the wine's pH levels (which affects the texture and the feel inside your mouth) and supplements with grapes from other varietals to create a stronger taste, says Warren.

Should You Switch to FitVine Wine?

Putting all the talk about calories and sugars aside, you might actually feel better drinking a diet wine.

"'Diet' wines claim to have less sugar and fewer sulfites, which may translate to fewer headaches," says Cadillac. FitVine says its wines have less than 35 parts per million (ppm) of sulfites, whereas an average wine sits somewhere between 75 and 150 ppm, says Warren.

"With wines that have more sulfites, people tend to get flushing or swelling," he says. "Some people have a sulfite allergy, but that's less than .01 percent of the population-most times, it's the combination of sulfites, histamines, sugar, flavors, and additives that cause a reaction." (More on that here: Do You Really Need to Worry About Sulfites In Wine?)

If you can't have a glass without feeling it the next day, FitVine could be a better option for you. "Our wines are low in calories, low in sugar, low in histamines, low in sulfites, and have no flavor additives," says Warren. "It's clean-tasting wine that people can have two glasses of on a Tuesday night and still wake up at 5 a.m. on Wednesday to hit the gym before work without feeling like someone hit you with a hammer."

The Bottom Line

Is FitVine the healthiest wine? Is it even healthier at all? "As a health care provider, I wouldn't label any alcohol as 'healthy,'" says Cadillac. But wine isn't necessarily unhealthy to begin with. "There are now 20 years of scientific literature showing the healthfulness of drinking wine," says Wallace. Studies have shown that wine (in moderation!) cuts your risk of disease, helps you chill out, can aid in digestion, could help you lose weight, and could even boost your workout performance.

So don't look at the label "diet" or "low-calorie" as an excuse to go HAM with a bottle. (There are no regulations specifying what makes a "diet wine," says Wallace, and wines that are marketed as a diet wine have not been reviewed by the FDA.)

"As with most 'diet foods,' people tend to overdo it, thinking since it's lower in calories they can have as much as they want," says Cadillac. "Whether you choose a diet wine or not, choose the one you enjoy most and drink it in moderation."

Instead, remember that life-and drinking-is all about balance. And that's exactly what FitVine is trying to promote: "A glass of wine is a release from our hectic lives," says Warren. "That's important because it helps people with their overall stress. We just want to help people enjoy wine without feeling the effects over the next few days." Cheers to that!

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