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How Much Wine Is “Too Much”?

June 4, 2024
19 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.
June 4, 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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There Is Such a Thing as “Too Much” Wine

  • “Too much” wine is defined as having more than seven drinks per week for women and 14 for men. The actual unit of measurement is an “alcohol unit” and can be calculated with a simple formula.
  • Learning to calculate the amount of alcohol that’s actually in a glass of wine is a great tool to help lower intake.
  • Quitting or cutting back on wine helps keep us from developing health problems in the future, and Reframe is a great companion to get you there!

You’re at home after a long day of work and decide thave a glass of wine before dinner. While you’re sipping, you decide you want another one. And hey, one more can’t hurt, right? Before you know it, you’re on your third. Is three too many? 

What counts as “too much” wine depends on a few factors, but there is a point where it becomes too much regardless of who you are. If you’re worried about how much wine is “too much,” read on to get some clarity.

Quick Overview of Wine

Wine is made by crushing grapes, putting them into fermentation tanks, then leaving them to mature before being filtered. Other substances like histamines, sulfites, sugar, and acid form during fermentation. Red and white wines are produced slightly differently, and different varieties have different alcohol levels. For more information about these differences, check out our blog on red versus white wines

While wine has some proposed health benefits, these benefits are only from small amounts of wine, and the risks of consuming too much far outweigh them. But what counts as “too much”? What about “in moderation”? We’ll break down those terms a little later, but first, let’s talk about how much alcohol is actually in wine. 

How Much Alcohol Is in Wine?

A “standard” drink — or glass if we’re talking about wine — is defined as five ounces. When calculating how much alcohol we’re drinking per day or week, however, we don’t count it based on the number of drinks, but rather the more precise measurement of “alcohol units,” which measures the amount of pure alcohol in any given alcoholic drink. One alcohol unit is 10 mL, or 8 grams of pure alcohol. That is how much an average adult can process in an hour. 

A standard 5-ounce (150 mL) glass of wine that is 12% ABV (alcohol by volume) contains 1.8 alcohol units. So if we have one standard glass of wine in an hour, that is almost twice as many alcohol units as our body can process effectively (depending on our gender and body size, but we’ll talk more about that later.)

Calculating Alcohol Units

What if you have wine that’s more or less than our standard 12% ABV? Let’s say, for example, that we need to calculate the alcohol units in a 750-milliliter bottle of wine at 17% ABV. 

Here are the steps:

1. Multiply the volume of the drink in milliliters by its ABV (don’t use decimals for this calculation):

  • 750 ✕ 17 = 12,750

2. Now divide that number by 1,000:

  • 12,750 ÷ 1,000 = 12.75

3. The final result is the alcohol units: 12.75 units in the whole bottle. 

One standard glass of this particular wine would be 150 mL ✕ 17 = 2,550 ÷ 1000 = 2.5 alcohol units. This is more than the recommended amount in an hour for both men and women, showing how not all wines are created equal, and “one glass” may have more alcohol in it than we think.

How Much Wine Is “Safe”?

Given our definition of alcohol units and our fancy new math skills, we have learned that the safest quantity of wine to consume is a small glass of wine (125 mL or less) of 12% ABV, consumed over at least an hour, or less if we’re drinking a higher-ABV wine. Remember, it’s not only about how much we are drinking but also how quickly, because the liver takes roughly an hour to break down one alcohol unit. So, if we’re having a standard glass of wine, it’s best to sip it slowly over a couple of hours, preferably with a meal.

How Much Wine is “Moderate Drinking”?

Anything above the “safe” level is considered “moderate” drinking. Moderate drinking is considered no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. Measured in alcohol units, that means no more than two for women and no more than four for men. Over a week-long period, women are advised to have no more than seven alcohol units and men no more than 14. 

This daily limit still applies even if we don’t drink for a few days — so no, we can’t save it up for the weekend and have seven glasses of wine in one sitting and still consider that “moderate.” Also, if we’re drinking a stronger wine, we need to drink less to stay in the “moderate” range, so it’s always wise to check the label.

How Much Wine Is “Too Much”?

Now, let’s go back to the three glasses of wine we questioned earlier. Knowing what we know now about alcohol units, that’s 6.3 alcohol units. This is over three times the level of “moderate” drinking, which is pushing into “heavy” drinking territory, especially if we had other drinks earlier in the day or week. 

The NIAAA says that heavy drinking is defined as eight or more per week for women and 15 for men. Let’s go back to our formula:

  • 8 standard glasses of wine (5 ounces/150 mL ✕ 12% ABV ÷ 1,000) = 14.4 alcohol units.
  • 15 standard glasses of wine (150 mL ✕ 12% ABV ÷ 1,000) = 27 alcohol units.

Heavy drinking also includes binge drinking, defined as four or more drinks per day for women and five or more for men:

  • 4 glasses of wine (150 mL ✕ 12% ÷ 1,000) = 7.2 alcohol units per day for women.
  • 5 glasses of wine (150mL ✕ 12% ÷ 1,000) = 9 alcohol units per day for men.

Those three glasses of wine aren’t sounding so harmless anymore, are they? That said, if we spread those three glasses out over five hours with food, our liver would have time to process most of it effectively. It’s drinking them back to back that puts us in the danger zone, especially on an empty stomach.

Signs of Heavy Drinking

The downside to these equations is that they don’t account for body weight or other personal factors that could affect how our body responds to alcohol. And let’s face it, some of us hate math. The good news is that our body gives us signs to let us know when we’re drinking too much:  

  • Slurred speech
  • Trouble walking
  • Blurry vision
  • Trouble remembering what happened the night before (happens the day after)

If we experience any of these signs, it’s time to put a cork in the bottle and opt for some water instead. If we drink wine regularly, there are some other signs that could indicate alcohol dependence.

  • Regularly being hungover
  • Feeling guilty about drinking
  • Often realizing the bottle is empty when you think you just opened it

These are signs it might be time to rethink your relationship with alcohol. Drinking too much wine can have detrimental health effects both short- and long-term.

Risks of Drinking Too Much Wine

Wine — just like any other alcohol — comes with a slew of health risks.

Short-Term Risks

Some short-term health risks of alcohol (including wine) include the following:

  • Injury. If you’ve ever stumbled home from the bar, you know how easy it is to trip and hurt yourself. No matter where you are, heavy drinking increases the risk of injury. Not to mention, tripping and splattering that wine all over the carpet can put a damper on your evening.
  • Decreased inhibitions. You know that boost of confidence you get from a drink that motivates you to finally sing that karaoke song you’ve been too shy to sing? Well, that same feeling could lead to risky behaviors such as unprotected sex and driving under the influence.
  • Heartburn. Wine is highly acidic, which can cause stomach acid to leak into the esophageal region, resulting in acid reflux. Research has shown that white wines are the worst for this, beating out other types of wine and even beer.

Long-Term Risks

Long-term risks of heavy wine drinking are similar to those of other kinds of alcohol.

  • Liver problems. All alcohol targets the liver, and wine is no different. For more information about wine and the liver, check out our blog about the health risks of wine.
  • Diabetes. Wine is higher in sugar than many other types of alcohol. A standard glass of wine (150-175 mL) contains over 1 gram of sugar. Sweeter wines like Port can have nearly 8 grams of sugar per glass. Keep in mind that between 25-35 grams of sugar per day is considered the limit according to the American Heart Association, and that’s for everything we eat. If we already have a high-sugar diet and add wine to the mix, we’re setting ourselves up for diabetes in the future. Alcohol in general can also worsen diabetes-related conditions.
  • Tooth stains. Wine is one of the worst beverages for our teeth, both because of the color — red wines especially — and the acidity.

If you’re worried about your wine intake or potential health problems, there is plenty we can do to set limits and reduce our consumption.

How To Set Limits with Wine

How To Set Limits With Wine

If you’re looking to quit or cut back on wine, try some of these tips.

  • Track your intake. Keep track of how many glasses you have per day or week. Reframe has a feature that lets you track your drinks and take notes about why you had those drinks, which can help you understand your habits and cravings.
  • Limit your purchases. Try only buying small amounts of wine at a time and try to ration it out. 
  • Check the label. As we learned earlier, not all wines have the same alcohol units. Check the label for the ABV of your wine, and opt for a lighter one.
  • Spread it out. If you’re having 14 or more alcohol units per week — the hard limit regardless of gender — the NHS recommends spreading it out over a 3-day period at least to give the body a chance to recover as well as adding in alcohol-free days to your week.
  • Pair it with food. Wine is meant to be sipped slowly and enjoyed. Pairing it with foods that go with it is a way to balance out the alcohol and get more out of the experience than just drinking. 
  • Find the right glass. “One glass” can mean a whole lot of different sizes, most of them being larger than the standard 150 mL. Research shows that drinking out of a smaller glass results in less overall wine intake when compared to a larger glass, so swap out the big round glass for a smaller one. It has also been shown that smaller dish sizes in general make us feel satisfied more quickly than larger ones.

With these tips in mind, we can develop a healthier relationship with wine and consume it the way it was meant to be consumed: mindfully and in small amounts.

There’s Nothing To Wine About

If you’re still here, especially after all the math formulas, then the definition of “too much” should be clear and easy to keep track of. We’ve equipped you with the tools you need to understand and track your wine intake. And remember, if you’re having some wine and realize you forgot the formula for alcohol units, then listen to your body.

Summary FAQs

1. How many ounces is one glass of wine?

A “standard” glass of wine is considered 5 ounces of wine, or about 150 milliliters.

2. How many ounces of wine is one drink?

A standard 5-oz (150 mL) glass of wine that is 12% ABV (alcohol by volume) contains 1.8 alcohol units. So almost half of that would be considered “one drink.” 

3. How much is “too much wine”?

“Too much” wine is considered 8 standard glasses of wine or 14.4 alcohol units per week for women and 15 standard glasses of wine or 27 alcohol units per week for men. Binge drinking is considered 4 glasses of wine or 7.2 alcohol units per day for women and 5 glasses of wine or 9 alcohol units per day for men.

4. How do I know how much is too much wine?

You can use an easy formula (mL x ABV / 1000) to calculate the number of alcohol units you consume each day or week. Another thing you can do is listen to your body, and if you notice signs of heavy drinking, it may be time to cut back.

5. What are some ways to not drink too much wine?

Adding sober days to your week can help reduce intake, as well as drinking wine from a smaller glass and pairing it with food.

Track Your Wine 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 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 today!

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At Reframe, we do science, not stigma. We base our articles on the latest peer-reviewed research in psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral science. We follow the Reframe Content Creation Guidelines, to ensure that we share accurate and actionable information with our readers. This aids them in making informed decisions on their wellness journey.
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