Yes, wine is good, but here’s the thing: there’s sugar in all wines, from whites to red to cooking wine and everything in between. But how much sugar are we talking about? Kind of a lot, according to a new study. Researchers reviewed 30 bottles of different types of wine in the UK and found that two glasses might exceed the recommended daily sugar limit for adults.
The Alcohol Health Alliance, a group of over 60 non-profit organizations from the UK, commissioned a laboratory to analyze 30 bottles of red, white, fruit, rosé, and sparkling wine from the top 10 leading wine brands in the UK. The results showed a variation of sugar and calories between products – information missing from most alcohol labels.
“Alcohol’s current exemption from food and drink labeling rules [in the UK] is absurd. Shoppers who buy milk or orange juice have sugar content and nutritional information right at their fingertips. But this information is not required when it comes to alcohol,” Professor Ian Gilmore, Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK, said in a statement
Wine and sugar
As you likely know, wine is made from grapes, which naturally contain sugar. To produce wine, the grapes have to be fermented – a process through which yeast is added and the sugars are transformed into alcohol. Any sugars that aren’t converted in the process are called residual sugars. So basically, wine does contain sugar, but it’s technically less than if you ate the grapes.
But the story is a bit more complicated. Every wine type is kind of unique in terms of sugar content. Aged wine, for example, has less sugar since it’s fermented for a longer time. Also, winemakers can add more sugar after fermentation depending on the desired sweetness. In the US, for example, the market for sweets is higher, so more sugar is added to the wine.
The problem is most of the bottles lack nutritional information on labels. In the UK, like in many countries, this isn’t currently required by law, so campaigners are calling for a change to better inform wine drinkers about the number of calories and sugars they are consuming. It’s also something consumers want, according to recent surveys.
The National Health Service (NHS) in the UK recommends adults consume a maximum of 30 grams of sugars per day. This is sugar in all its forms — and a lot of foods have more sugar than you think. The analysis by the Alcohol Health Alliance UK shows it’s possible to reach that level by drinking two medium-sized glasses of some wines. Lower-strength wines have the most sugar, according to the research.
Alcohol accounts for about 10% of the daily calorie intake of adults who drink in the UK, with over three million adults consuming an extra day’s worth of calories each week. That’s two months of food each year, and it’s basically just empty calories. It goes much further than just wine, with up to 59 grams of sugar found on every ready-to-drink cocktail on the market, a study showed.
“The alcohol industry has dragged their feet for long enough – unless labeling requirements are set out in law, we will continue to be kept in the dark about what is in our drinks. People want and need reliable information directly on bottles and cans, where it can usefully inform their decisions,” Alison Douglas from Alcohol Focus Scotland said in a statement.
The full report on sugar and wine can be accessed here.