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Alcohol and Health

Can You Have Wine on a Low-Carb Diet? What Is Keto Wine?

January 11, 2024
13 min read
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Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
January 11, 2024
13 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
January 11, 2024
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
January 11, 2024
13 min read
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Reframe Content Team
January 11, 2024
13 min read

There are a lot of diets out there, and none of them encourage alcohol as a food group. We know that alcohol can make us gain weight, and may even inhibit weight loss. It’s full of empty calories, and for people considering or trying to follow a low-carb diet, alcohol is often a source of unexpected carbohydrates. When trying to manage our carbs, whether for medical reasons or for a ketogenic diet, there are many things to consider when choosing to include alcohol. Wine in particular presents a challenge due to the daunting task of sorting through the wide variety of options. This article makes that challenge a little easier — let’s make sense of the ways wine can impact a low-carb diet!

Understanding Ketosis and Carbohydrates

The ketogenic or “keto” diet takes advantage of our body’s built-in survival mechanisms. Without carbohydrates to burn for energy, our body turns to fat as a fuel source by converting it into a form of energy called ketones. This state is called ketosis.

The goal of the keto diet is to induce ketosis by significantly reducing carbohydrate intake, thus increasing our body’s natural fat-burning power. Carbohydrates include starches (potatoes, beans, pasta), grains (rice, oats, wheat, corn), and sugars (sweeteners and sweet foods like fruit). The keto diet has been shown to help manage weight and even improve certain medical conditions.

To achieve and maintain ketosis, it’s crucial to meticulously track the carb content of our food and be hyper-aware of dietary sources of carbs. The modern diet contains a lot of hidden sugars, and alcohol is no exception. Alcohol itself has a nuanced role in metabolism. While it’s not a carbohydrate, alcohol is processed by the liver, which prioritizes its metabolism over ketone production. This doesn't necessarily mean an exit from ketosis, but alcohol can slow down fat burning and, with it, some of the diet's effectiveness.

Why Are There Carbs in Wine?

Wine is made from crushed grapes — it’s essentially grape juice. Winemakers add yeast to the juice, and the mixture is left to ferment. The yeast feeds on the sugar, producing ethanol as a waste product. Once the wine has reached the desired level of fermentation or sweetness, the process is halted and the wine is bottled. The sugar left over in the wine is known as residual sugar, and it makes up the carbohydrate content of the wine.

Most wine has at least some sugar, but not all wines are created equal. In fact, the sugar content in wine varies greatly between different varieties, and even between different wineries or brands. The residual sugar in dry wines is low, and in some cases it’s even possible to find zero sugar wine. In sweet wines, residual sugar is high. It’s possible to enjoy wine on the keto diet, but only if you’re careful about what types you choose.

Carbs in Wine vs. Other Alcohol Drinks

Dry wines tend to come in at around 4 grams of sugar, whereas sweet wines can come in at several times more than that. Plain spirits like tequila, rum, vodka, and gin have the fewest carbs of all alcohol, typically coming in at 0 grams of sugar per serving. Once these get mixed into cocktails, though, the sugar usually goes up because of the other added ingredients. But if you’re on the keto diet, there is more than just sugar to consider.

Choosing Low-Carb Wines

Turns out, you really can have wines on keto and low-carb diets! There is a wide variety of low-sugar wines to choose from, meaning the carb-conscious among us can enjoy an occasional glass without significantly impacting our diet. But what should we look for when choosing a wine to enjoy?

  • Prioritize dry red wines. Red wines like merlot, cabernet, and pinot noir tend to have fewer than 4 grams of carbs per serving. While red wine has been shown in the past to have some health benefits, this information has largely been debunked. If you do choose to include a wine in your diet, red wine may still be the best choice.
  • Consider dry whites. If red wines aren’t your thing, dry white wines like pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc are another low-carb option, with fewer than 4 grams of sugar per serving. Most zero carb wines are whites as well, and they’re specially-crafted for low-carb diets.
  • Avoid sweet wines. Certain varieties naturally have more sugar. Pass on sweet whites such as white zinfandel, moscato, prosecco, and riesling. Sweet reds are less common, but watch for terms like “late-harvest,” “ice wine” and “sangria.” Fortified wines like port and sherry are usually sweetened to cover up the taste of the added alcohol.
  • Learn to understand wine labels. Wine labels provide clues about carb content. Look for terms like "dry," "extra dry," and "brut," which indicate lower sugar levels. Some dry wines are even labeled as “low-carb” or “skinny.” With the keto diet gaining popularity, you may even spot “keto wine” on the shelves. Sweet sparkling wines are often labeled as “demi-sec” or “doux.”

Things To Remember When Drinking Wine on a Low-Carb Diet

  • Mind your serving size. Remember that a “serving” of wine is 4-6 ounces. In a standard wine glass, this means filling up to just below the widest part of the glass. Get to know what a serving looks like in the glasses you usually use.
  • Opt for quality over quantity. Choose a high-quality wine that you can savor in small amounts rather than drinking larger quantities of a less flavorful option.
  • Time your intake. Consider consuming wine with a low-carb meal to help mitigate any potential impact on blood sugar levels and ketosis.
  • Consider low-alcohol wines. Just because a drink is low-carb doesn’t mean it’s low-calorie. In fact, even zero-carb wines have plenty of calories. Alcohol disrupts our metabolism and slows calorie-burning. Pairing a high-alcohol wine or spirit with carbs or a higher-carb meal can cause those carbs to have a bigger impact than they otherwise would.
  • Consult with a nutritionist. If you’re serious about losing weight or maintaining a low-calorie diet, a professional can provide personalized advice based on your health goals. Reframe also offers coaching that can help you make the best choice for your lifestyle.

Can You Have Wine on Keto?

Here’s the bottom line: embracing a low-carb or keto lifestyle doesn't necessarily close the door on enjoying a glass of wine. There’s no straightforward answer to whether or not wine can fit in a specialized diet — it depends on each person’s goals, priorities, and nutritional needs. Because wine’s empty calories can contribute to nutritional imbalances, especially when restricting calories, it’s important to carefully consider nutritional needs when drinking alcohol while dieting. Alcohol is not a necessary part of a balanced diet.

Summary FAQs

1. Can you have wine on keto?

Yes, if you make smart choices. Learn to identify which wines are lower in carbs and sugar so you can maintain ketosis.

2. Is wine low-carb?

Sometimes. Focus on dry reds like merlot and pinot noir, or dry white wines like sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio. Avoid sweet wines like moscato, prosecco, riesling, sangria, and fortified wines.

3. Does wine have fewer carbs than other drinks?

It depends. Plain spirits like vodka, gin, tequila, and rum, are pretty much guaranteed to be low-carb. Cocktails often contain sugary mixers that increase the amount of sugar in a drink. Wines require a bit more deciphering, which is why it’s important to learn how to read wine labels. It’s possible to find great wines that can fit into your weight-loss journey.

4. Can I find keto-friendly wines?

Absolutely! In moderation, certain dry wines can fit into a ketogenic diet.

5. Will I lose weight if I drink low-carb wines?

Low-carb wines are a calorie-conscious choice, since there are fewer calories from sugar. But alcohol itself is high in empty calories. Cutting back on alcohol is a great way to cut back on calories without sacrificing nutrition.

Moderate Your Intake With Reframe

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people worldwide drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

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