Healthy wine drinking is happy wine drinking.
And European Union wine producers are doing their best to give consumers the information they need to make healthy, informed wine choices.
As of December 23, 2023, all labels on wine sold in the EU are required to list the calorie content on the physical wine bottle label.
Other required information, including full nutrition (grams of fat, protein, carbohydrates, etc.) and ingredients, can be listed electronically with a QR code.
What does this mean for American consumers?
Well, if you’re concerned about alcohol and sugar levels in wine, it’s a good thing.
Already, overseas bottles with the new labeling are filtering into the U.S. market, as EU producers get ahead of the December deadline.
This week, on my Grapefully Yours Wine Podcast (www.InsideLowell.com), I discussed with co-host Mike Pigeon, aka The Wine Butler, the impact of the EU changes.
We also tasted a New Zealand wine that conforms to the new EU law and is marketed as “lighter” in calories.
While agreeing that consumers would benefit from the added information, we disagreed on the overall result.
The Wine Butler felt that a drinker loyal to a particular beverage wouldn’t change buying habits over a calorie crisis.
I said that calorie content – posted prominently on a bottle – has both a psychological and physical impact and will build awareness for consumers to drink healthier.
“Enjoy two glasses of wine and then take a walk,” said The Wine Butler with a smirk.
If only it was so easy.
For one thing, wine has no nutritional value. It’s fat-free but it does have calories.
We drink it because we enjoy it. It’s great with food. It adds to the experience of la bella vita.
Also, preliminary studies have shown positive health benefits when wine is consumed in moderation (one glass a day for women, two for men): decreased risk of cardiovascular diseases, cognitive decline, stroke, metabolic syndrome and early death.
On the other hand, drinking an excessive amount of wine – especially those high in alcohol and sugar content – can definitely have a detrimental effect on one’s health.
That’s why calorie counting might not be a bad thing when it comes to the amount of wine you drink.
So, with calories in mind, the featured wine of the week was Matua “Lighter” Sauvignon Blanc 2022 ($15) from New Zealand, a low-alcohol wine (9%) that lists on its front label only “80 calories per serving”.
The first question one should ask is: What is a serving of wine?
According to industry standards – and EU law – the average glass of wine contains 5 ounces of liquid.
The second question one should ask is: How many calories are there in a 5-ounce glass of red and/or white wine?
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one 5-ounce glass of table wine contains 120-130 calories.
Doing a little math, we can deduce that a glass of Matua “Lighter” Sauvignon Blanc contains between 33% and 38% fewer calories than a regular 5-ounce glass of wine (120-130 calories).
Let’s take our calculations a step further.
A 750 milliliter bottle of wine converts to 25.3 ounces of liquid – or five standard-sized glasses. Using those figures, an entire bottle would contain approximately 600 to 650 calories.
A full bottle of Matua “Lighter” Sauvignon Blanc contains 400 calories – or up to 250 fewer calories than the standard, “non-light” wine.
Do you see the difference? Or at least see the value of listing the caloric content on wine bottles?
(Note: On Matua’s back label its lists the “Average Analysis” if a 5-ounce glass of wine. It reads: “Calories 80, Carbohydrates 1g; Protein 0g; Fat 0g.”
I’m not promoting Matua’s “lighter” wine over any other sauvignon blanc on the market. However, transparency in wine-making is long overdue and, in my book, the more information given to consumers the better.
I can see U.S. winemakers adopting EU labeling laws in the years ahead – sooner rather than later – because it’s the smart thing to do.