How to Find Low-Carb, Low-Sugar Wine—Plus Five Picks to Try
What to Know About Carbs, Sugar, and Alcohol
Diet or no diet, sometimes you just need a glass of vino—and low-carb, low-sugar wine options make it a bit healthier to imbibe.
Doctors say moderate alcohol consumption (for women, that's one drink per day) can increase your HDL (good) cholesterol, and studies have shown that people who consume several drinks a week actually live longer. (Here's the DL on wine's health benefits.) However, most drinks are also full of empty calories, especially when combined with the excess food intake—hello, bar nachos!—that you might inhale and blame on, ahem, your lowered inhibition. (See: Does Alcohol Make You Gain Weight?)
Here's the good news: If you know what to look for, you can keep your carbs at bay and still enjoy that blissed-out feeling a glass of wine can bring after a looong day. In fact, wine actually falls on the low end of the alcohol spectrum when it comes to carbs, with around 5 grams of carbs per glass (except for super-sweet wines like port and late-harvest varietals, which can contain 20 grams or more).
How to Pick Low-Carb Wines
Most wine labels don't list nutrition facts like sugar, carbs, and calories, so it can be tricky to figure out which are considered low-carb or low-sugar wines. A good rule of thumb is to look at the ABV and residual sugar in wine. As either one goes up, so do the calories and carbs, says Josh Fritsche, production winemaker at William Chris Vineyards. Drier wines have less residual sugar then semi- or off-dry, sweet, or very sweet wines. While residual sugar isn't often on the label, you can often out how much sugar is in wine—a.k.a. the grams of residual sugar—on a wine's tech sheet by doing a little research first.
Keeping that in mind, sweeter white wines like rieslings and moscatos are out of the question if you're going low-carb, as are cabernet, grenache, and shiraz for reds. Varieties like Oregon pinot noir and French or Italian white wines can help you minimize carbs without sacrificing taste, says Adam Sweders, wine director for DineAmic Group in Chicago.
It's worth noting that alcohol is really in its own nutrient category, though, and isn't really a fat, carb, or protein, says Jae Berman, M.S., R.D.N., who works with wine app Vivino. "While alcohols come from carbohydrate sources such as potatoes, grains, and grapes, they're metabolized differently than a carb because of that ethanol molecule," she says. (FWIW, a recent study found that a moderate-carb diet might be linked to a longer life.)
How to Pick Keto-Friendly Wines
If you're following the keto diet and sourcing only about 5 percent of your daily calories from carbs, even 5 grams per glass can add up quickly—so stick to low-sugar wines that are bone dry and come from a cooler region. "A cooler-region wine minimizes the potential [alcohol by volume] due to the lack of sugar evolved inside the grape," says Sweders. "By fermenting it dry, you remove all residual sugar, [and therefore] cut total carbs and sugar."
Consuming alcohol is generally discouraged if you're on the keto diet, because it slows fat burning and ketone production. However, there are ways to enjoy it very moderately (talking one drink, people), provided you eat a keto-friendly meal beforehand and choose the right type of alcohol. (Here's the full guide to drinking alcohol on the keto diet.)
"When choosing to have wine, it is best to have some fat at that sitting so you don't get an isolated blood sugar spike or reactive hypoglycemia from the processing in your liver," says Ali Miller, R.D., L.D., C.D.E., a registered dietitian who runs a virtual ketosis program. Lucky for you, that means a charcuterie board is just the thing to nosh on while you sip.
With that in mind, here's a guide to five delicious, low-carb wines with the least amount of sugar that won't leave you feeling deprived.
When it comes to low-sugar wines, look no further than FitVine wines, which have less than 0.09 grams of sugar and 3.9 grams of carbs per 5-ounce glass. What's more, they're also free of flavor additives and low in sulfites. (See: Are the Sulfites In Wine Bad for You?) Thanks to a unique extended fermentation process, the wines retain an ABV of 12.4 to 13.9 percent. Choose from the brand's range of low-sugar reds and whites, including pinot noir, cabernet, red blend, rosé, chardonnay, pinot grigio, and sauvignon blanc varietals. Fancy a bit of bubbly instead? FitVine's prosecco has just 0.7 grams of sugar per 5 oz glass.
Dry Farm Wines
This wine club curates high-quality natural wines from organic family farms and rigorously tests each one to meet strict health standards. Every exclusive bottle is sugar-free, low in sulfites and alcohol, fermented with wild native yeast, and both low-carb and keto-friendly. Best part? Taste-wise, you'd never be able to tell. A curated box is delivered to your door each month and you never know what you'll find inside, which is half the fun.
Siduri Oregon Pinot Noir
Sweders' pick for an easy-drinking, medium-bodied, low-sugar wine for red lovers is an Oregon pinot noir, like Siduri's Willamette Valley varietals. They have less residual sugar than red wines grown in a warmer climate—but no less flavor, with notes of juicy red fruits and a crisp acidity.
When it comes to sugar content in wine, white wines can easily be mistaken as high in carbs and sugar. Here’s the thing: While they might taste sweeter than some of their red counterparts, certain white varietals are actually considered low-sugar wine. Case in point? This bright and beautiful bottle of dry Chardonnay, which wins points for being low in sugar and carbs while still delivering a sweet summery taste. Plus, at less than $15 per bottle, low-sugar wine's never tasted so ~sweet~.
Mercat Cava Brut Nature
Bubbly usually has the lowest carbs of any wine, says Miller. With 3 grams or less of residual sugar, bottles labeled "brut nature" are the driest on the scale, even more so than extra brut, which can have up to 6 grams. Mercat Cava Brut Nature sparkling, low-sugar wine from Spain is well balanced and crisp, with notes of pear, green apple, and cream.