You’d never know this from looking at your typical bottle of wine, but the answer is simple: For most dry table wines that hover somewhere between 11 and 14 percent alcohol by volume, a 5-ounce glass will contain about 120 to 130 calories, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Most wine labels tell you the alcohol content and little else. But two recent measures aim to make nutritional information more widely available to drinkers. In 2013, the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) ruled that alcohol producers could voluntarily print a “Serving Facts” label on their bottles, similar to what you see on packaged food products in the grocery store—though it’s still unclear whether many producers will opt in.
Meanwhile, starting in December 2015, chain restaurants will be required to disclose calorie information for alcohol, as well as for food, on their menus.
Here's a sample label based on data from the U.S.D.A.
One key source of calories is alcohol, which contains 7 calories per gram. So a glass of Zinfandel at 15 percent alcohol by volume will likely contain a few more calories than a glass of Albariño at 11 percent alcohol by volume.
Also contributing to the calorie count are carbohydrates—including sugar—which bring 4 calories per gram. A typical dry wine may have around 4 grams of carbs per pour, whereas the same serving of a sweet dessert wine can deliver about 20 grams of carbs.
Remember, these figures apply to 5-ounce glasses of wine—which, a 2013 study found, many drinkers fail to gauge accurately. You may be pouring more calories than you realize.
If Skinnygirl wines are low-calorie, then most wines are low-calorie. One serving of any of Skinnygirl’s offerings—whether Pinot Noir, Moscato or Prosecco—boasts 100 calories, a marginal 20 to 30 fewer calories than in any other dry table wine. That difference is equivalent to about two stalks of celery.
Skinnygirl wines clock in at a relatively normal 12 percent ABV, but other so-called diet wines are much lower in alcohol than many wine lovers expect when they’re imbibing: The Skinny Vine, at 95 calories per glass, offers wines as low as 7.3 percent ABV; Weight Watchers wines, with 89 calories per glass, stand around 8.5 percent ABV.
Wine by itself may not make a meal, but calorie counts don’t tell the full story of wine’s nutritional value. Although the jury’s still out, drinking wine—especially red wine—in moderation has been linked to a range of positive health outcomes, potentially including weight loss.
Studies from researchers in Spain and Boston have observed lower weight gains among moderate drinkers than among nondrinkers. Other scientists have found that people consume fewer calories overall when drinking wine. These results, of course, may be influenced by confounding lifestyle factors: It’s possible that wine drinkers as a group tend to make healthier lifestyle choices than nondrinkers, not that wine itself takes off the pounds.
Still, other research has found evidence that red-wine polyphenols might prevent fatty foods from being converted to fatty tissue, and that red wine could keep glucose from entering fat cells. We still can’t be completely sure of wine’s effects on weight gain—more research is needed.