Grapes are fruit. Grapes make wine. Fruit has sugar. So by the transitive property, wine has sugar, right? And we are supposed to be cutting back on sugar, right?
The New York Times recently addressed the whole wine-sugar question in an article that points out that, yes, there is some sugar in wine. Yet, before you start to give your pinot noir the side-eye, know this: It’s not as much as you’d think.
First, let’s back up: The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that people have no more than 12 teaspoons or 50 grams of added sugar a day. (Added sugar is sugar or syrup that is added to foods and drinks, but is different from sugar that occurs naturally in things, like the aforementioned fruit.) The American Heart Association is a little more strict, suggesting that people have no more than six teaspoons or 25 grams of added sugar a day for women.
So, while you’re not exactly encouraged to have sugar in your diet, you’re fine to have a little. So how does wine fit in?
The United States Department of Agriculture has a cool online database that lets you search for nutritional content in a variety of foods and drinks, including booze. Based on their data, as well as input from nutritional experts, here’s a breakdown of how much sugar is in different types of wine:
As you can see, there’s actually not a ton of sugar in wine—unless you’re going for dessert wine, of course. (Of note: Sugar content can vary slightly depending on the wine maker.) But, while some people claim that having a glass of wine is like having a soda, New York–based dietitian Jessica Cording, R.D., says that’s just not true: “The amounts of sugar in wine have barely a fraction of what you’ll find in a soda.” Sonya Angelone, R.D., a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, agrees and says she’s “not concerned about the very small amount of sugar in regular wine” if you drink it in moderation.
Instead of worrying about the sugar in wine, certified dietitian and nutritionist Lisa Moskovitz, R.D., CEO of NY Nutrition Group, says it’s better to keep an eye on sugar traps like snack foods, granola and protein bars, sugar-sweetened drinks, and condiments like ketchup and BBQ sauce.
Of course, if you’re paying close attention to your sugar intake and are nervous about the amount in wine, Angelone suggests certain liquors like vodka, whiskey, rum, tequila, and gin, which don’t contain residual sugar. Stick to nonsugary mixers, of course.
But again, having a glass of wine here and there is not going to hurt much in the sugar department, provided you’re not regularly reaching for muscat. “As long as you’re drinking safely and moderately, enjoying a glass of wine is absolutely OK and may even offer some health benefits,” Cording says. “Just keep it in mind when considering how much sugar you’re consuming overall.”