Ever hear of residual sugar? As I learn about the clean craft and organic wine industries I keep coming across this notion of “no residual sugar,” or just “no sugar.” Sounds great, but how wine can have no sugar and what does that mean for me?
Certainly wine and alcohol do have calories, which I thought only came from carbs, fat or protein. I’m guessing there isn’t a whole lot of protein in alcohol, although it would be great to have a screw-driver “protein shake” after a Saturday morning workout. I haven’t heard of fatty wine, low fat wine or fat free wine either so we’re left with carbohydrates. That would be the sugar right? So I check The Google interweb thingy and found that the average wine does have a small amount of carbs (and some wine with significant carbs) but hard liquor does not, so what gives?
It’s true, unflavored vodka, gin, rum, tequila and whiskey have zero sugar or carbs per ounce. That’s not to say there are not calories. The amount of calories in these drinks will depend on the alcohol content, or “proof.” It seems to be about a calorie per 1-proof. For example, at 80-proof you are looking at about 80 calories for a 1-ounce drink. Technically it’s measured by calories by gram of alcohol (about 7 calories per gram), but I’m into easy rules of thumb and can’t imagine the bartender’s face when I start asking about grams. Anyway, hard alcohol is sugar free due to the distillation process which occurs after fermentation. Distillation is intended to remove impurities and increase the alcohol content – which is why some are 80 proof but others are 120 proof.
Since wine is not distilled, sugar-free wine comes down to the fermenting process (see hystamine reaction, and sulfites in wine). Clean craft wineries go through a pain-staking process of selecting undamaged grapes that will not require added sugar, chemicals or additives to complete its fermentation. It is also fermented in a way that allows the yeast to eat all of the sugar, resulting in……wait for it…..NO RESIDUAL SUGAR! This means no carbs and zero grams of sugar which is why ketogenic researchers have written that up to 2 glasses of clean wine did not stall ketone production (see an example of a post from Ketologic here). While clean craft wine will still contain calories, you can count on no added sugar vs. the average wine that has up to 16 grams of added sugar per bottle – that’s more than a glazed doughnut!