Wine Ink column: Wine prescription to manage weight, improve health |

Wine Ink column: Wine prescription to manage weight, improve health

It's worth nothing that Ben Franklin himself extolled the virtues of moderate wine consumption.
Special to the Tribune |


2013 JK Carriere “Vespidae” Willamette Valley Pinot Noir — Lower alcohol levels can be found in many Oregon pinot noir wines. While some argue that this makes them a bit thin, that is hardly the case with the “Vespidae” (named for the prolific wasps in the Oregon vineyards) from Jim Prosser’s JK Carriere label. Though I can’t tell you what the calorie count is in a glass of this wine that weighs in at 12.5 percent alcohol by volume, I can tell you that the flavor quotient is off the charts. With cherries and berries, hints of cinnamon and spice, this is a great wine from one of Oregon’s up-and-comers.

Other Potential Health Benefits of Wine

• Increased longevity (The Journals of Gerontology, 2007).

• Reduced risk of Type 2 Diabetes (Amsterdam’s VU University Medical Center, published in Diabetes Care, 2005).

• Reduced risk of stroke (Columbia University study published in Stroke, 2006).

• Reduced risk of cataracts (Icelandic study, published in Nature, 2003).

Source: List compiled by Food & Wine magazine, October 2007.

January is when we all begin to consider that perhaps we should drop a pound or two after the holidays. So it was when I found myself at a gathering where weight-loss regimes were the topic du jour.

“I love red wine,” said a friend who was holding a glass of what appeared to be a very white wine. “But I’m dieting, so I switched to white.” Was she on to something? Would simply switching from red wine to white wine allow my friend to get her bikini body back?

Well … maybe, kind of, sort of. The caloric content of wine varies widely based upon a variety of factors. Wines that are high in residual sugar have a higher caloric level than those that are dry, meaning low in sugar. And a wine with a higher percentage of alcohol will invariably up the caloric intake of those who imbibe. So low-sugar and low-alcohol wines are the keys for those who wish to drop calories in their wine consumption.


So what does that mean? Well, a glass of wine can range from a low of around 100 calories per glass for a low-alcohol, low-sugar wine to as many as 200 calories for high-alcohol dessert wines, such as ports. The trick is finding a sweet spot that is not too sweet and is a bit lower in alcohol.

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

While most wines do not list the levels of residual sugar on their labels, they do list the alcohol by volume. Alcohol has approximately twice the impact on calories as does the residual sugar. If you want to keep your caloric consumption low, then try to drink wines that are in the 9 percent to 13 percent range alcohol by volume.

For white wines, look to Europe, where you can find dry, low-alcohol wines such as French chenin blanc, German riesling, Austrian gruner veltliner, Portuguese vinho verde and the sparkling wines. But be sure that they are dry wines rather than sweeter versions. For reds, look for lighter varietals such as pinot noir and Beaujolais, which is made from the gamay grape. But be aware that even these wines can be made in bigger styles that up the alcohol content.

Still, the difference in a glass of these wines can range from, say, a low of 110 calories to a high of maybe 170 calories for a 5-ounce pour. That is what, a difference of about 60 calories per glass? At the end of the day — or the bottom of the glass, as the case may be — the difference is about 3 percent of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration daily recommendation of 2,000 calories per day for the average woman.

Perhaps drinking what you like but drinking less of it is the better compromise than switching to something less appealing. However, always remember, moderation is a virtue.


Of course, as we all know, there is much more to a healthy body than just whether or not the bikini fits. Since Hippocrates, the father of medicine, began to study wine’s effect on health in about 310 B.C.E. or so, it has been widely postulated that the juice of fermented grapes (aka wine) has a positive impact on any number of medical maladies. Religious figures and healers, and writings through the centuries ranging from the Apostle Paul to the Talamud, suggest that the ingestion of wine can be good for both digestion and a healthy gut, amongst other things.

There is a plethora of studies conducted by modern physicians in a plethora (yes, I like that word) of countries that have all specified ways that moderate ingestion of wine can actually improve health. Go to the Mayo Clinic’s website, and there will be guarded suggestions that an average of two drinks per day for men and one for women (in the case of wine, a drink is generally defined as 5 ounces) may have positive health benefits. Same is true on the American Heart Association’s website.

Researchers at Harvard in 1992 stated that moderate consumption of wine was one of “eight proven ways to reduce coronary heart disease risk.” Scientists have cited the antioxidants and flavonoids, which are abundant in the skins of red grapes, as being beneficial in reducing the production of LDL cholesterol (the bad stuff), boosting HDL (the good stuff) and limiting clotting in blood. The most universally-accepted benefit found by most researchers is that moderate daily consumption of alcohol can be a factor in improving cardiovascular health.

And then there are the psychological benefits that accrue to those who drink wine. As was stated by Benjamin Franklin: “Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance.”

To your health.

Kelly J. Hayes lives in the soon-to-be-designated appellation of Old Snowmass with his wife, Linda, and black Lab, named Vino. He can be reached at

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