You may be asking this question for a number of reason, “How much sugar does wine have?” Maybe you’re interested in managing your blood sugar. Maybe you’re interested in making wine, and you want to understand the role of sugar in your beverage. Perhaps you’re just curious. In any event, it is an important discussion to have any time you’re consuming a food or beverage. So, let’s have it.
Sugar and Wine
Fruit has a tremendous amount of natural sugar, and grapes are no exception. Indeed, the high volume of sugar in grapes is precisely what makes them an excellent source for wine.
When you understand, however, that all of that sugar is consumed by the yeast to make alcohol, you can see how while grape juice has a ton of sugar, wine does not.
Well, grapes are crushed to get all those wonderful sugars into a juice.
Yeast, a living organism whose sole purpose is to find and consume sugar, is then either naturally attracted to the wine, or a wine maker will add yeast to the wine. At this point, the juice is rich in sugar, typically having an original gravity between 1.070 and 1.090.
This is a great time to note that the original gravity of wine tells you how much sugar exists in the liquid. Water typically has a gravity of 1.0. Sugar is denser than water, so the gravity rises with all those sugars.
Now, once the yeast enters the must (grape juice meant for wine), it begins consuming those sugars and the original gravity will begin to drop.
You can calculate this drop by taking gravity readings during the fermentation process.
The yeast uses sugar for energy to keep seeking sugar and to reproduce, just like humans use our food for energy.
Then, it excretes alcohol and carbon dioxide, along with hundreds of secondary metabolites, as waste products. In fermentation language, we say yeast converts sugar to alcohol and CO2.
The final gravity, or specific gravity, reading after fermentation then will tell us how much of the sugar is left, which will tell us how much alcohol is in the wine.
Typically, wine will have a final gravity of .990, so the yeast consumed all the sugars in the wine, leaving the gravity below 1.0, so less dense than water. Because, of course, alcohol is less dense than water.
Thus, while a cup of grapes has about 15 grams of sugar, and it takes about 2 cups of grapes to make a single glass of wine, a glass of wine does not have 30 grams of sugar. Instead, most readings will tell you there is about 1 gram of sugar in a single glass of wine.
What Sugar Does in the Body
Why do these readings matter?
Well, many people are looking for low sugar options for their bodies as we come to realize the powerful effect sugar has on the human body.
It acts as an inflammatory, so it can cause issues like chronic pain and discomfort. It has been shown in studies to lead to anxiety, increased levels of stress, and even depression.
Sugar in excess amounts can wreak havoc on a typical human body, and it can cause severe damage to diabetics.
Wine for diabetics is a tricky issue, of course, because while wine does not have a ton of sugar, it does have a few carbohydrates, and carbs convert to sugar in the blood.
However, most guidelines will advise that diabetics can have a glass of wine with dinner just like everyone else, as long as they don’t have any other medical conditions that prohibit the consumption of alcohol.
In terms of sugar, it is certainly better to have a glass of wine than a glass of grape juice. In fact, one recent study has shown that drinking wine with meals has actually helped lower the risk of type 2 diabetes in some people.
What Alcohol Does in the Body
It is important to note also that alcohol does not stay alcohol in the body.
For many years, people thought, and spread the misinformation, that alcohol converts or metabolizes back to sugar in the body. This misinformation remained among the urban legends for a long time until it was recently debunked.
The truth is that alcohol does not convert to sugar. There’s no going back.
But it can mess with your blood sugar.
It has been shown that drinking alcohol causes a “yo-yo effect.” It will initially raise your blood sugar and then, as your body metabolizes it, your blood sugars will drop.
We feel the effects of this yo-yo as we get energized from drinking with friends and then feel drunk or hungover later in the evening or the morning after.
These are all helpful tidbits to note as lovers of wine, as winemakers, and as people interested in learning more about health, wellness, and the impacts of various foods and beverages on our bodies.
It’s always better to know than to remain ignorant. With knowledge, we can make informed decisions, like which glass of wine will go best with tonight’s meal.
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