Getting heavy about light wine

By , 11 July 2011



Like making love in a canoe.

As featured in the last issue of Longevity: The recommended daily allowance of alcohol is two to three units for woman and three to four units for men, a unit in the case of wine defined as 100ml (a small glass). Which isn’t very much. If we presume a couple share a bottle over a good meal at a restaurant, travel home by taxi so as not to be in violation of drinking-and-driving regulations and then let the wine’s mood-enhancing effects take their course, it’s difficult to see this as fundamentally unhealthy.

For those watching their weight, however, wine is high in kilojoules. Half a bottle of dry white (375ml) amounts to approximately 1335 KJ, the equivalent of six slices of white bread and around 15% of the recommended daily energy intake for an average, moderately active woman.

If you like a good party but are worried about packing on the kilograms, then the various “lite” wines on the market might seem like a good alternative. Drostdy-Hof Extra Light, for instance, is a white wine which claims to be “25% lower in kilojoules and 26% lighter in alcohol than the average white table wine”. And with an approximate retail price of R21 a bottle, how far wrong can you go?

Problem is that these “lite” wines are usually pretty bland when it comes to taste. They are made by picking the grapes earlier when not only sugars but flavour compounds are lower. The wines are then further manipulated by technological means in the cellar to remove even more of the alcohol.

So what’s the health-conscious wine lover to do? In broad terms, the drier the wine, the lower in kilojoules, so if you are still drinking semi-sweet rosé, time to switch to something more sophisticated.

Then, it bears mentioning that alcohol on its own provides 29 KJ per gram (nearly twice as fattening as carbohydrates or protein) so best to seek out wines that are naturally lower in alcohol by volume. Compare a wine with an abv of 12% (roughly 72 grams of alcohol per 750ml bottle) to a wine with 15% abv (90 grams of alcohol) and the difference in kilojoules is not insignificant.

Water, of course, is the best way to fulfill your daily fluid needs, with it providing no additional energy. But let’s face it, after a tough day at the office, the stress relieving properties of a glass or two of wine can come in pretty handy.

If you want to extend the period of your drinking enjoyment, then feel free to add ice to your wine. Choose a wine which is full flavoured but not too fine in character (as the ice melts, it will necessarily having a diluting effect and make the experience of the wine more basic). Here I can recommend the entry-level examples of Sauvignon Blanc from Durbanville winery Diemersdal or the unwooded versions of Chenin Blanc from the likes of Kleine Zalze in Stellenbosch or Perdeberg  in Paarl. Alternatively, there’s the good old spritzer: 1/3 white wine mixed with 2/3 fizzy water, great for hot summer days when it can be consumed in large, thirst-quenching amounts.


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