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Diet Wine - Is this really a thing?

The diet adult beverage crazy continues to be a daily topic of discussion with more and more people trying to cut out certain parts of their diet in an effort to lose a few pounds. We applaud people for being healthy and encourage people to live a healthy lifestyle with adult beverage consumption playing some sort of role, in moderation of course. 

Products such as Hard Seltzer Water, Low-calorie flavored vodkas and ultra-light beers kind of dominate the diet adult beverage realm, but there is also a small amount of "diet wine" on the shelves that deserves some discussion.

So what is "diet wine"? Well, if you read the marketing material for the popular brand Fit Vine, this particular brand of wine has "less calories" per portion and no added sugar or preservatives. Let's analyze those statements for a minute...

Less Calories Per Portion - The Calorie content in wine comes from the alcohol and any residual sugar that was not fermented out of the product during the fermentation process. There are more calories in sugar than there are in alcohol. So by that nature, dry wines (wines lacking residual sugar) have less calories than sweet wines (wines with a higher degree of residual sugar.) the vast majority of wines sold in most premium adult beverage retail stores are dry wines. Red, white or Rosé. The portion size you attribute to a particular product will provide you with the desired calories per portion you, as a winemaker or marketer, wants to attribute to a particular style. It's all in the numbers. If your stated portion size is 5oz, then a common glass of dry red wine (in this case Pinot Noir) at 13.5% ABV and zero residual sugar will have about 115 calories. By comparison, a sweet wine, like a Moscato d'Asti with an ABV of 5% and 18-20 g/L of residual sugar will have a calorie content of around 150 per portion. Here is where the marketing kicks in. If you change the portion size to 4oz per glass, the calorie content for the dry red wine above becomes 92 calories, achieving that all important goal in marketing any consumable product of being under 100 calories per serving. It's all in the numbers, and how many of us really only going to drink 4oz of wine?! 

No Added Sugar or Preservatives - This is my least favorite marketing tactic with respect to wine, because it really assumes that the consumer being targeted doesn't have a clue as to how this whole process works. Quality dry wine products are made to have zero residual sugar, in most cases. Some may have a small degree of residual sugar because the winemaker determined that it was necessary to balance out the flavor components of his/her product. That being said, the process of chaptalization (adding sugar to wine prior to fermentation to boost the alcohol content) is frowned upon in the fine wine community. It is a process used in some lower end wines and bulk manufactured products because it's the only way to create a sell-able product. The same goes for preservatives. The use of preservatives to keep wine from spoiling during maceration and fermentation while common, is not as common among fine producers in the amounts that are more common in the lower end categories. In short... good wines are made with no added sugar and less preservatives. That's just how it's done and to use this as a selling tactic for your product once again is playing on the lack of knowledge that, sadly, most people have when it comes to wine.

So what does all of this mean with respect to the diet wine brands like FitVine? - FitVine makes some very nice wines. They have great varietal character, they have great balance and they are affordable. They are also really good at marketing. They have taken what is common in most wines and used that to their benefit to create a cult following among people leading, or attempting to lead, a healthier and more active lifestyle. So my advice to you is to buy them because they are good, not because they are good for you. Moderation is the key to success when incorporating adult beverage into your healthier lifestyle. Please let me know if you have any questions!
 

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