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Yes, You Can Still Drink Wine On Your Low-Carb Diet

Women's Health logo Women's Health 2021-11-23 Gabby Shacknai, Marissa Miller
All wine contains some sugar, but certain varieties pack more of the sweet stuff than others. Consider this your guide to keto-friendly, low-sugar wines. © Katrina Lukina / EyeEm - Getty Images All wine contains some sugar, but certain varieties pack more of the sweet stuff than others. Consider this your guide to keto-friendly, low-sugar wines.

Listen, there's nothing wrong with grabbing a chilled glass of wine after a long day of endless work calls and meetings, errands, and household chores. But if you're following a keto or low-carb diet, you may be curious how your fave glass of red fits into your plans.

After all, many wines do contain a fair amount of sugar (more on that later!), and sugars are carbs. Well, here's the good news and a spoiler alert for what's ahead: Meeting your health goals doesn't mean nixing wine from your diet completely.

If anything, it just means practicing moderation, or swapping your go-to glass for one that better aligns with your goals. Different varieties pack different amounts of sugar, so even keto dieters can enjoy small amounts and be in the clear, carb-wise.

It's only when you down a lot of vino that sugar becomes an issue. “If you drink more than [a serving], your insulin output can increase, bringing your blood sugar levels down and causing hypoglycemia, which may cause you to feel lightheaded," says Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, author of Eating in Color. Not ideal for anyone, let alone low-carb or keto eaters.

But there are in fact many wines on the market today that have low to no sugar, making that second glass (or even third) much less worrisome. Consider this your guide for finding the best low-sugar wines, so you can keep your pinot habit intact.

Why does wine have sugar in the first place?

Here’s the thing about wine: Though you need sugar to make it, that sugar doesn't make up much of the final product.

When a grape is ripe enough for harvesting, its juice should come in at between 21 and 25 brix (the degree winemakers use to measure the sugar in a liquid solution), explains Brian Azimov, wine expert and founder of Wine With Brian.

Through fermentation, which occurs when yeast is added to grape juice, that sugar starts to turn into alcohol, Azimov says.

Stop the fermentation process early and you’ll have wine with higher amounts of sugar and less alcohol. Ferment for longer, and you'll have a wine with lower sugar content and more alcohol.

In climates that don't support proper grape maturity, some winemakers—especially in France, which tends to be cooler than, say, California—rely on chaptalization. In this process, winemakers add cane or beet sugar to the unfermented grapes, Azimov explains.

Don’t stress, though: This sugar merely initiates the fermenting process. Just like the sugar in the grapes themselves, it gets turned into alcohol during fermentation.

Though winemakers ultimately decide how sweet to make any variety of wine, different types of wine generally contain different amounts of sugar, says Azimov.

Can you drink wine on the keto diet?

For anyone on the keto diet, the question of how much wine is okay to drink actually becomes one of whether it’s okay to drink wine at all.

“You might be able to drink wine on a ketogenic diet, but even small amounts (less than one 6oz glass) may be enough to bump you out of nutritional ketosis,” explains Paul Kriegler, RD, an assistant program manager at Life Time.

While everyone is different in how they metabolically respond to alcohol and any residual sugar in the wine, Kriegler says that, in his experience, people can either follow a strict ketogenic diet or enjoy wine, rarely both concurrently. But it's not impossible.

If you are looking to find a wine that will stick as closely as possible to your keto diet, though, there are two things to keep in mind, he adds.

First, you want quality over quantity. “Look for a well-made, dry wine that you’ll enjoy one 4 to 6-ounce glass of and be satisfied—probably not your bargain-priced wines—rather than buying for bulk,” he says. Second, you should look for a dry wine HOW CAN SOMEONE TELL IF A WINE IS DRY? LOOK FOR A CERTAIN ALCOHOL CONTENT ON THE LABEL? since those tend to keep the sugar content low.

You can also search for wines, which are specifically sold as "low-sugar wines," though you should always read the nutrition label to make sure it fits into your diet.

These types of wine have the lowest amount of sugar.

At less than one percent sweetness (or 10 grams of sugar per liter), dry wines tend to contain the lowest amount of residual sugar, says Largeman-Roth. (Semi-sweet, or “off dry,” wines typically contain more than three percent residual sugar.)

Here are the lowest-sugar wines in the game:

  • Dry reds, which often have under one gram of sugar per five-ounce pour: Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah/Shiraz
  • Dry whites, which have between one and 1.5 grams of sugar per five ounces: Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, and Viognier
  • Low-sugar sparkling wines, which have about two grams of sugar per five ounces: Brut and Extra Brut

Watch Gabrielle Union taste-test natural wines:

And these types of wine have the most sugar.

Clocking in at seven to nine percent residual sugar, it's no surprise that dessert wines tend to have the highest sugar content of any wines, says Largeman-Roth.

For context, while a five-ounce glass of Chardonnay has just one gram of sugar, five ounces of Port contains around 12.

The following wines tend to have the most sugar:

  • Whites like Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Chenin Blanc
  • Reds like Cabernet, Zinfandel, and Grenache
  • Sweet sparking wines, which range from 17 to 50 grams per liter: Sec, Demi-Sec, and Doux
  • Dessert wines, which pack around eight grams per five ounces: Port, Sauternes, and Tokaji

9 Low-Sugar Wines To Check Out


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Make your next trip to the liquor store quick, and grab one of these low-sugar, sommelier-approved picks. (Want sugar-free vino delivered straight to you?

1. FitVine Cabernet Sauvignon

Fit Vine Cabernet Sauvignon © fitvinewine.com Fit Vine Cabernet Sauvignon

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With 0.06 grams of sugar per glass, Fit Vine’s tart and smooth Cab Sauv is a great bet.“[They] specifically make lower sugar wines for wellness-minded people," Largeman-Roth explains. "The extended fermentation process brings sugar content down to less than a gram per serving."

2. Pedroncelli Zinfandel Mother Clone 2018

Pedroncelli Mother Clone Zinfandel 2018 © wine.com Pedroncelli Mother Clone Zinfandel 2018

$18.99

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An exception to the rule, this spice-forward, low-sugar Zinfandel will win over the most discerning of guests. “Full-bodied and powerful, Pedroncelli’s Mother Clone Zin includes fruit from 110-year-old-vines, yet costs less than you may think,” says Azimov.

3. Usual Wines Red

0 grams of sugar, real wine © usualwines.com 0 grams of sugar, real wine

$96.00

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Usual Wines has been shaking up the industry with its single-serving bottles, but its actual wine is similarly challenging the status quo. With no added sugar, the Red blend is sustainably made and features notes of raspberry, black cherry, and fennel.

Per serving: 124 calories, 0 g fat, 2 g carbs, 0 g sugar, 0 g protein

4. The Ojai Vineyard 2017 Santa Barbara Syrah

Ojai Roll Ranch Syrah 2017 © wine.com Ojai Roll Ranch Syrah 2017

$49.99

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“Earthy and savory, yet with focused fruit character, Ojai Santa Barbara Syrah has only two grams of sugar per liter and is perfect for those looking to steer clear of the jammy styles,” Azimov says.

*Nutritional information not available

5. UN’SWEET Pinot Grigio

White - Pinot Grigio 3 pack ($13/bottle) © unsweetwine.com White - Pinot Grigio 3 pack ($13/bottle)

$39.00

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UN’SWEET is the first-ever zero-sugar wine that’s 100 percent natural and gluten-free. The Pinot Grigio, one of two varietals the company makes, features a fruity, crisp taste without all the added sugar found in most white wines.

Per serving: 111 calories, 0 g fat, 3 g carbs, 0 g sugar, 0.4 g protein

6. Ramey Wine Cellars 2017 Russian River Valley Chardonnay

Ramey Chardonnay Russian River, 2008 750ml © wine.com Ramey Chardonnay Russian River, 2008 750ml

$21.99

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Aged in French oak barrels, each bottle of this Chardonnay offers fresh flavor, complete with apple notes. It maintains its freshness in part due to its low sugar content (2.3 grams per liter), Azimov says.

*Nutritional information not available

7. Kim Crawford Illuminate Sauvignon Blanc

Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc © drizly.com Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc

$16.99

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With only 70 calories per serving, Kim Crawford’s Illuminate Sauvignon Blanc is made from individually-harvested New Zealand grapes and boasts citrus notes with fruity aromas.

Per serving: 70 calories, 0 g fat, 3 g carbs, 0 g sugar, 0 g protein

8. Yellow Tail Pure Bright Pinot Grigio

YELLOW TAIL PURE BRIGHT PINOT GRIGIO © totalwine.com YELLOW TAIL PURE BRIGHT PINOT GRIGIO

$5.99

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Ideal for food pairings, the Pure Bright Pinot Grigio from Yellow Tail has all the same crisp flavor of your typical wine but with fewer calories, carbs, and sugar.

Per serving: 80 calories, 0 g fat, 1.6 g carbs, 0 g sugar, 0 g protein

9. Winc 2020 Keep It Chill Gamay

2020 Keep It Chill® Gamay © winc.com 2020 Keep It Chill® Gamay

$17.99

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Designed to be served chilled, this Gamay is fruity and refreshing with bright flavors that really pop at cooler temperatures. It’s also the perfect substitute to the more sugary rosés out there.

*Nutritional information not available

The bottom line: Whichever low-sugar wine you opt for, remember to stick to one serving at a time in order to avoid spiking your blood sugar.

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