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Wine School

Is Wine Keto? Let’s Talk Low Sugar, Low Carb Wine

Looking for keto friendly, sugar-free, low carb wines? Read this keto wine guide first.

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By Sarah Hoffman

July 23, 2021

The sugar free Maker Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc, cover photo for the keto wine guide

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You may have seen a flashy Instagram ad from [insert name of trendy wine company here] promoting sugar-free, low carb wine for a ketogenic diet. Enticing? Sure. Misleading? A bit, as it suggests that most wines are packed with sugar or full of carbs, and that they've somehow invented keto-friendly wine.

The good news is that nearly all dry wines from reputable small producers have little to no residual sugar (<1 g/L), and correspondingly very low carbs (<3 g) per serving. So drink the good stuff.

Here's the scoop on what the keto diet is, how wine can be “sugar-free”, and what wines to look for if you’re keeping keto.

What’s the keto diet?

The ketogenic diet is a very low carb, high fat diet — it involves significantly reducing your carb intake and replacing it with fat. It blew up after podcaster Tim Ferris did a piece on the power of the ketogenic diet in 2015, and “ketogenic diet” has remained at the top of the Google diet search charts ever since. 

People are attracted to the keto diet because of the weight loss benefits and boost to brain function. Without carbs that convert to blood sugar, you can enter a state called ketosis, where your body gets much more efficient at burning fat for energy. It also turns fat into ketones in the liver, and apparently, the brain loves ketones. 

Keto followers refer to eating within their daily macros or daily calorie intake broken down into a ratio of fat, protein, and carbs. The standard keto diet allows for 70% of calories from fat, 20% from protein, and 10% from carbs.

Is wine keto?

We said it before and we’ll say it again: the vast majority of wines from reputable small producers have very few carbs and low-to-no residual sugar.

Let's check out the Maker wine portfolio as an example. You'll notice that all the wines — from different high-quality, small producers across various California wine regions — all have less than 3g of carbs and zero grams of sugar per 5 oz serving.

Sugar, carbs, and calories of wines in the Maker portfolio. Note: <0.5 g per serving of sugar is considered sugar-free per the TTB.

You might be asking, "How can high quality, minimal intervention wines have 0.0 grams of sugar? Isn’t wine made from sugar?"

To answer your question, let's do a quick review of winemaking 101. Juicy, ripe grapes are picked that have naturally occurring sugars. During the fermentation process this sugar is converted to alcohol. Any sugar left over is called “residual sugar” and is the main source of a wine’s sugar content.

Wines that are “fermented to dry” allow this fermentation process to be completed fully, and all that sugar is converted to alcohol and carbon dioxide. This is not “diet wine” or wine where sugar has been “removed.” 

So yes, dry wine can have zero residual sugar and be “sugar-free.” And no, that “clean” / “fit” / “low-cal” wine company is not doing anything differently than the high quality producer making dry wines down the street. Except probably making (or let’s be real, sourcing) lower quality wine. 

Why don’t high quality producers talk about the relatively low sugar and carb content in wine? Good question - I think they should. Perhaps the perception of wine as art and mystique surrounding the industry may make it tough to talk carbs. There are also no labeling requirements for nutrition in wine(!), and getting this testing done on each wine you produce is expensive. I digress.

Which Wines are Keto? Which are Not?

Ok, so we’ve learned that the Keto kids like to keep carbs low, and that dry wines have low to no residual sugar. 

The best wines to keep keto will have no residual sugar and be lower in alcohol (<13%). Check out the Maker Sparkling Sauv Blanc and Maker Sparkling Rosé by Bodkin Wines - both “Brut Zero” with 0.0 g of sugar and 11% ABV for great examples of high quality, craft, keto-friendly wines.

Look for low alcohol wines, fermented dry, with low carbs like the Maker Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc.

Avoid wines that are “off-dry” to “sweet”, they can actually have quite a bit of sugar! And as the adage goes, you get what you pay for. “Value” driven wines and two buck chuck may even have added sugar to make the flavor profiles more pleasing and bring down costs. Avoid wines with higher alcohol and sugar content, the uber cheap stuff from mega-wineries where sugar may have been added, and sweet or dessert wines like Port and Moscato that can have upwards of 30 g/l of residual sugar.

Is red wine Keto? What types of red wines are Keto friendly?

Yes! Red wines that are fermented dry with low alcohol and low to no residual sugar can be Keto friendly. In particular, wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Merlot tend to be low in carbs and residual sugar. And wouldn't you know, those are the wines we've chosen as our first Maker reds. Join the Maker Can Club for access to our dry, red wines with zero sugar. And as a reminder, we aren't removing sugar from wine or changing the wine that these high quality, small producers make in any way.

What else should I keep in mind?

If you’re wine-ing on a diet, make sure you look at calories, sugar, carbs etc. per serving. It’s a little sneaky, but many alcohol brands report calories, carbs, and sugar per serving, and have different definitions of what a serving is. Check out a company’s tech sheets or product pages for this information. 

And what if you can’t find calories, carbs, and residual sugar listed on their site? Just ask. If you reach out to a wine or spirit company and they don’t or can’t tell you the nutritional information of their product, that's what we might call: a flag.

While we’re on the subject, if a wine company doesn’t tell you the name of the winemaker or where the wine is grown, that’s not a great sign either. It’s likely not from a reputable craft producer or they’d be proud to tell you their story. In summary, sip wine with soul.

Resources to learn more

Lots of fine folks in the wine industry have written about this, here are a few articles that I found informative:

Wine Spectator’s Guide to Sugar in Wine

Wine Folly’s Realist Guide to Keto Wine

Did I answer all your burning Keto questions? Let me know what you think at sarah@makerwine.com

Try a keto friendly wine

Want to try zero sugar, low carb wines by an award-winning, black-owned winery? Try the Maker Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc.

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