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Drinking Habits

Carbs in Wine: Where Are They Hidden in Your Glass?

January 2, 2024
18 min read
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A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
January 2, 2024
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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.
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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.
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Reframe Content Team
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We all probably know that drinking alcohol can make us gain weight. After all, there’s a reason the terms “beer belly” and “wine belly” exist. But, while we most often tend to associate carbs with beer, we might be surprised to learn that wine also contains carbohydrates. So, where are the carbs in wine, and just how many carbs does a glass of wine contain?

In this post, we’ll gain insight into what carbohydrates are and explore which types of wine have more carbs than others. Let’s dive in! 

What Are Carbohydrates? 

Carbohydrates, otherwise referred to as carbs, are one of the most basic food groups. In fact, along with fat and protein, carbohydrates are classified as a vital macronutrient because our body needs them for energy. They fuel our body. 

Here’s how it works: whenever we consume carbohydrates, our body breaks them down into glucose — another word for sugar. Glucose is the main source of energy for our body’s cells, tissues, and organs. 

There are three main types of carbohydrates: sugars, starches, and fiber. As such, we can find carbohydrates in a wide variety of foods, such as grains, pasta, fruits, dairy products, legumes, desserts, juices, and starchy vegetables like potatoes. On the other hand, meat, fish, and poultry don’t contain a lot of carbohydrates. 

Where Are the Carbs in Wine? And How Many Carbs Are in It?

Since many of us tend to associate antioxidants with wine, it might come as a surprise to learn that carbohydrates are also present in wine. In fact, a standard 5-ounce glass of wine usually contains about 3 to 4 grams of carbohydrates, depending on the wine (more on this, below!). 

Where exactly do the carbohydrates in wine come from? Simply put: unfermented sugar from grapes. During the fermentation process, the sugars in grapes — specifically glucose and fructose — ferment with yeast to create alcohol. However, not all sugar is converted into alcohol during this process; some unfermented sugar remains. This leftover sugar is called residual sugar, which becomes the carbs in wine. 

What Types of Wine Have More Carbohydrates?

Not all wine is created equal when it comes to the number of carbohydrates. Some wine has more carbohydrates than others. For instance, wines that have lower sugar content during the fermentation process also have fewer grams of carbohydrates per glass. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the amount of carbohydrates in different types of wine.

Carbs in Red Wines

In general, sweet red wines tend to have a higher amount of carbohydrates, sometimes reaching 5-7 grams or more per 5-ounce glass. This is because these wines retain more of the grape’s natural sugars, which is also what gives them a sweet taste. 

However, drier red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir tend to be lower, since most of the grapes are fermented into alcohol — hence the drier taste. Here are the number of carbs per 5-ounce glass for popular red wines:

  • Pinot Noir: 3.4 grams
  • Merlot: 3.7 grams
  • Cabernet Sauvignon: 3.8 grams
  • Syrah: 3.7 grams
  • Sangiovese: 3.8 grams
  • Zinfandel: 4.2 grams
  • Grenache: 4 grams
  • Malbec: 4.1 grams

Carbs in White Wines

Drier white wines like Chardonnay typically have less carbohydrates, while sweeter white wines like Rieslings tend to have more. Again, this is because sweeter wines retain more of the grape’s natural sugars, which are carbohydrates. Here are the number of carbs per 5-ounce glass for popular white wines:

  • Sauvignon Blanc: 3 grams
  • Brut Champagne: 2.8 grams
  • Sparkling white wine: 1.5 grams
  • Pinot Blanc: 2.8 grams
  • Pinot Grigio: 3 grams
  • Chardonnay: 3.1 grams
  • Dry Riesling: 5.5 grams
  • Chenin Blanc: 4.9 grams

As we can see, white wines tend to have a lower number of carbohydrates than red wines. So, what wine has the least amount of carbs? Sparkling white wine, followed by Pinot Blanc, Brut Champagne, and Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris.

How Do the Carbs in Wine Compare to Other Types of Alcohol?

Now that we have a better understanding of the number of carbs in wine, let’s look at how they compare to other types of alcohol. 

In general, wine is relatively low-carb compared to other alcoholic beverages. For instance, while a standard glass of wine contains anywhere between 3-5 grams of carbohydrates, a 12-ounce pint of beer can have a carbohydrate content of more than 12 grams. 

Distilled spirits like vodka, rum, and whiskey are low-carbohydrate because the sugar has been completely distilled — which is why these often have a higher alcohol concentration. However, mixed drinks can be loaded with carbohydrates since they use high-sugar juices, sodas, and syrup. For instance, a Long Island iced tea may contain as many as 33 grams of carbohydrates due to the cola, lemon juice, and simple syrup. Or consider a piña colada, which contains a whopping 43 grams of carbs! 

Finally, although there are liqueurs with moderate alcohol content, they usually have a higher sugar content, and thus a higher amount of carbohydrates. And some liqueurs, such as amaretto or crème de menthe, almost always have added sugar. 

What Are Too Many Carbohydrates Bad, Anyway?

While our body needs carbohydrates for energy, it’s important to consume them in moderation, since too many can cause us to gain weight. Too many carbohydrates equals too many calories, which means excess fat. 

Similarly, too many carbohydrates can be detrimental to our blood sugar levels. Anytime we eat (or drink) carbohydrates, they’re absorbed into our bloodstream, causing a spike in our blood sugar levels. Over time, eating too many carbohydrates can make it difficult for our body to regulate blood sugar levels, putting us at a greater risk for type 2 diabetes. 

Keep in mind that the type of carbohydrate we consume makes a difference. For instance, refined carbohydrates — like white bread or pasta — are easier to digest, but they cause a quick spike in blood sugar. However, complex carbohydrates, such as legumes, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, are healthier because they take longer to digest and don’t cause an immediate blood sugar spike. 

Is Wine Bad for You, Good for You, or Both? 

Many people tout wine for its potential health benefits. This is largely because wine, particularly red wine, contains a group of antioxidants called polyphenols, including resveratrol. These compounds have been associated with several heart-healthy benefits, like helping reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. As such, some studies suggest moderate wine consumption may be linked to a reduced risk of certain chronic diseases, including heart disease. 

However, it’s important to note that consuming any amount of alcohol regularly and in large quantities can be detrimental to our health. Heavy alcohol consumption — regardless of the type of alcohol — has been linked to an increased risk of mental and physical health issues, from depression, anxiety and dementia, to heart disease, liver disease, and cancer.

How To Drink Wine Healthy: 8 Tips

Now that we have a better understanding of the amount of carbs in wine and the importance of limiting our consumption, let’s look at eight ways to incorporate healthier wine drinking habits into our routine:

  1. Count your drinks. Try using a notepad app in your phone to track every glass of wine you drink in one sitting — whether at a party, dinner, or event — and help you become more aware of how much you’re consuming. You can even take this one step further by limiting yourself to one drink every hour.
  2. Drink plenty of water. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it promotes water loss through urine, causing us to become dehydrated. Drink one glass of water between each glass of wine to stay hydrated throughout the night and can also reduce the severity of a hangover.
  3. Sip slowly. Wine is truly meant to be savored, so try not to rush through your glass. Savor each sip, taking slow sips and staying active, such as chatting with friends. It’s helpful to incorporate mindful drinking here, as it can help us focus on the experience of drinking, rather than mindlessly gulping wine down.
  4. Don’t mix with other alcohol. Mixing different types of alcoholic drinks — particularly those that have a high concentration of alcohol — can rapidly bring up BAC levels and make us more intoxicated. Mixing drinks can cause us to consume a larger amount of alcohol in a short period of time. If you start drinking wine, stick to just wine.
  5. Opt for low-carb wines. Try opting for drier wines with lower carb contents, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, or Pinot Noir. Look for “sec” or “trocken,” as these have lower sugar content. Also look for Brut wines, as they usually have less carbohydrates. Brut natures wines are one of the driest wines, with only 0 to 3 grams of sugar in a bottle!
  6. Avoid dessert wines. Dessert wines can be appealing, but they’re called dessert wines for a reason: they’re full of sugar and carbohydrates. In fact, dessert wines can contain 30 to 40 grams of carbohydrates per glass! As enticing as they may be, try your best to avoid them.
  7. Avoid fortified wines. Fortified wines, such as port, Madeira, and sherry, are created with high levels of alcohol, which kills off yeast during fermentation and leaves more residual sugar. More sugar means more carbs, so try your best to avoid these.
  8. Eat or snack while drinking. Finally, whenever you drink wine, try to pair it with a healthy meal or snack. Having food in our stomach slows the processing of alcohol. Consider options like whole grain crackers, nuts, or a plate of fresh vegetables. It can be helpful to prepare this ahead of time to prevent us from reaching for something unhealthy, or worse getting the “drunchies”! 

By implementing these tips, we can still enjoy wine without compromising our health and well-being. Keep in mind, however, that quitting alcohol entirely may be most beneficial for some of us, given the toll that it can take on our physical and mental health. 

The Bottom Line

Carbohydrates in wine come from the unfermented sugar in grapes. Red wines typically contain more carbohydrates than white, drier wines due to a higher concentration of sugar. While wine may contain a lesser amount of carbohydrates than other types of alcohol, it still contains them! And over time, all of those glasses of wine can add up — causing us to gain weight and increasing our risk of a variety of health issues. Just like other alcohol, we should drink wine in moderation and limit our consumption. 

If you want to cut back on drinking, but don’t know where to start, consider trying Reframe. We’re a science-backed app that has helped millions of people cut back on their alcohol consumption and enhance their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. 

Summary FAQs

1. What are carbohydrates, and why are they important in our diet?

Carbohydrates are essential macronutrients that provide energy for our body's functions. They are found in various foods like grains, vegetables, fruits, and even grapes. Moderation is key, as too many carbs can lead to weight gain, while too few can result in sluggishness.

2. How many carbs in a glass of wine?

In a 5-ounce glass of wine, you'll find approximately 3 to 4 grams of carbohydrates. This amount, though relatively small, should be considered, especially if you're watching your carb intake.

3. Where do the carbs in wine come from?

The primary source of carbs in wine is the natural sugars found in grapes. During the winemaking process, these sugars ferment into alcohol, but not all are converted, leaving some as residual carbohydrates in the final product.

4. Which types of wine have more carbs?

Dry wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay typically have fewer carbs, around 2-4 grams per glass. Sweeter wines like Moscato and Riesling can have higher carbohydrate content, sometimes reaching 5-7 grams or more per glass.

5. What are the health benefits of wine, and what should we be cautious about?

Wine, in moderation, offers antioxidants that support heart health and potential longevity. However, it's crucial to balance these benefits with potential downsides, including the risk of addiction, liver issues, and excess calorie intake.

6. What are some practical tips for a healthier wine routine?

If you choose to drink wine, make sure to measure your pour, practice mindful drinking, alternate wine with water to stay hydrated, set weekly wine limits, choose dry wines for lower carb content, pre-plan healthy snacks to curb munchies, and incorporate regular physical activity to offset excess wine calories.

Develop Healthier Drinking Habits 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 the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol. 

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today! 

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