WINE, WOMEN AND WEIGHTLOSS
A friend once rang wanting advice – she’d read red wine was good for her. She wanted some recommendations.
Trouble was, she didn’t drink.
Her experience with wine was definitely limited, but she was contemplating buying a bottle of lambrusco. (I had a mental image of her drinking the contents over a month, tablespoon by measured tablespoon.)
This was wrong on so many fronts. Wine is NOT a medicine!
And let’s not even dwell on her choice of tipple – lambrusco is a sweet Italian-style red wine with around 15 to 20 grams of sugar. She may have been helping her heart but she was sure hurting her waistline.
Wine can be fattening. Maybe not as fattening as a Big Whopper with double cheese, but fattening enough for wine companies to now consider making low-cal wines.
I don’t have any problem with the concept. Along with low fat cheese, bacon and milk, it was only a matter of time before we got around to low-cal beer and wine.
I do, however, have a problem with the way some of the wines were promoted in the past.
Too often they were viewed as “women’s wines”, appealing exclusively to women. As the success of Pure Blonde low-cal beer suggests, we know men want low-cal beer. So, why not wine?
Some companies tied themselves exclusively to the women’s wine vote. When Lindeman’s – owned by Foster’s – launched its Early Harvest portfolio of wines in 2003 it was billed as the first Australian wine developed by and for the female consumer.
More than 90 per cent of the women tested in Foster’s market research saw a lower-kilojoule wine as desirable. The proviso was it also had to taste good. Early Harvest was released with a very pretty front label, forever positioning it as a women’s wine. Taking a bottle of Early Harvest to a party was like taking out a full-page ad in a newspaper announcing you were watching your weight.
Subtle it wasn’t. Blokes wouldn’t touch it and often made embarrassing sport of “the fat sheila’s drink”.
Fortunately, wine producers (including Fosters) have learnt a lot since then.
YES, people want low alcohol, low calorie wines. NO, they don’t want their low alcohol, low calories wines to stand out as anything different.
Today, low-cal wines aren’t segregated in the bottle shop. They can be found under grape variety or producer and that’s a good start. The labels are improving too, less “feminine” for the most part. McWilliam’s Balance brand is positively plain. If it weren’t for the Weight Watchers sticker on the front, the low cal/alcohol message would be discreet. The good news is the sticker can be peeled off easily. Someone at McWilliam’s was thinking!
The low alcohol/low calorie connection I goes all the way back to the vineyard.
It’s all about the sugar, stupid.
If you want a low-calorie wine you have to pick the grapes early when the level of sugar is still evolving. A lower sugar level automatically means a lower alcohol level, that’s why low alcohol and low calorie go together.
Most low-cal wines are around 8.5 or 9 per cent alcohol. That level of alcohol means they will taste different, especially compared to a table wine of 13.5 or 14 per cent.
Alcohol gives body, texture, weight and, yes, a bit of flavour to a wine.
At lower levels these four components are minimised (some might say “compromised” but possibly that’s being too unkind).
Expect your low-cal wine to be quite fruity and upfront. It will taste lighter in the mouth and the flavour won’t last terribly long on the finish – but there will be flavour and a “winey” sensation.
My personal favourite low-cal wine is Braided River Marlborough sauvignon blanc. It’s around 23 per cent lighter in alcohol and calories compared to the standard Braided River sauvignon blanc, but I doubt it’s 23 per cent less flavour.
It’s got the New Zealand sav blanc stamp all right, positively exploding with herbaceous, grassy smells and flavour. For a successful low-cal wine, it helps to have a strong grape variety involved and sauvignon blanc fits the bill.
My other favourite style is low-cal sparklings.
Sparkling wine and Champagne can have some of the highest levels of calories of any wines, so a low-cal sparkling is always going to be popular. Like sav blanc, there’s also something in a sparkling to divert your attention away from immediately noticing it’s low-cal. Bubbles.
Yellowglen Jewel under the Yellow series of sparklings is close to the perfect low-cal sparkling. It looks the goods with only a small front sticker announcing what it is. It’s appealingly pale in colour, keeps good bubble and it smells and tastes fantastic with a zesty citrus punch. I doubt few would pick it as low-cal.
All wines marketed as low calorie are required by law to place a nutritional information box on the back label. The box, similar to that found on foods, lists the energy, fat, protein, sodium and carb counts of the wine.
It’s interesting to note that wine producers have to list a kilojoule – not calorie – count. Like feet and inches, some old imperial habits are hard to get rid of.
How low are low-cal wines?
- One 150ml glass of a standard ‘normal’ red wine contains around 502 kilojoules compared to 530 kilojoules for a 150ml glass of white wine and 525 kilojoules for a sparkling wine.
- Sweet and dessert wines can range from 563 kilojoules to 630 kilojoules.
- Low-cal wines can be around 20 to 30 per cent lighter, depending on the alcohol. (For example, Braided River 2010 low-cal sav blanc is 354 kilojoules for a 150ml glass.)
- Yellowglen’s Jewel low-cal sparkling is 249 kilojoules for a 150ml serve and McWilliam’s Balance 2008 low-cal shiraz is 375 kilojoules.
Are low-cal wines worth the effort? Yep.
It’s possible to lose weight (in conjunction with a low-cal diet). But, just remember, it’s estimated that 94 per cent of your daily calories, if you are a moderate wine drinker, are derived from other sources.
It’s no use drinking a low-cal wine if you are hoovering up the corn chips and cheese dip!
Jeni’s Top 5 Low-Cal Lovelies…
*Braided River 2010 “Lighter in Alcohol” Marlborough sauvignon blanc ($13.99)
*Yellowglen Yellow non-vintage “Jewel” sparkling wine ($10.99)
*Lindemans Early Harvest non-vintage Rose Sparkles ($13.99)
*McWilliam’s Balance 2008 shiraz ($18.99)
*Lindemans Early Harvest 2010 Crisp Dry White ($14.99)
*Jeni Port is the leading female wine writer for The Age. Here she writes exclusively for thehoopla.com.au
So, TheHoopla wants to know:
Have you tried low-calorie wine? If so, what’s your favourite? Or do you think the words low-calorie and wine should never be spoken in the same sentence?