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The Skinny on Low-Calorie Wines

My coworker Meredith recently mentioned to me that some of her friends are into "diet wines" – brands like Skinnygirl and The Skinny Vine, which have fewer calories than regular bottlings. A wine that won't really add to your calorie count for the day? Sounds awesome, especially if these diet wines still taste like regular wine.

Then I started looking into exactly how these diet wines achieve a lower calorie count. Some brands decrease the alcohol by volume (ABV) or residual sugar, since wine's calories come from those two sources specifically. The ubiquitous Skinnygirl, in particular, is slightly lower in calories than your average wine (100 calories in a 5-ounce serving vs. about 110 in white wines and 120 in reds). But if you think about it, a savings of 10 to 20 calories is hardly worth changing the way you drink. Put it this way: It's the equivalent of not eating two celery stalks. So while it's true that Skinnygirl is less caloric than your average bottle, the handful of calories you're actually saving are probably not doing much for your waistline.

It also helps to know that there are plenty of traditional wines on the market that are just as low in calories because of their relatively low alcohol and/or sugar content. For example, any bottle with less than 12 percent ABV (generally speaking, Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Gris and sparkling wines fall into that category) will have fewer calories, as will many dry white wines because of their lack of residual sugar.

Red wine drinkers don't have to worry about residual sugar, as most varieties are naturally dry, but they should look for bottles with less than 13 percent ABV. Sorry, all you lovers of those big, bold Zinfandel and Shiraz. Stick with Beaujolais instead (only 10 percent ABV!), or wines made in cool climates where the grapes don't get so ripe.

In conclusion: When it comes to shedding pounds, maybe diet wines aren't the answer. A better bet might be to, you know, eat healthier and exercise.