Low-calorie wines gained popularity during the COVID shutdowns, and many thought it was a fad that would disappear once life got back to normal. Here we are in the spring of 2023 – COVID still exists, and vaccinations are available – but life is back to normal for most of us. And low-calorie wines are still being poured.
The movement likely came from a spinoff of the beer industry. If they can make beer have fewer calories with less alcohol and still taste good, couldn’t the same be done with wine?
The calories in wine come from alcohol and sugar. When we drink a dry wine, that’s a wine with little to no residual sugar. Naturally, dry wines have lower calories than sweet wines. But even when all of the grapes’ natural sugars are fermented into alcohol to make the wine dry, there are calories in the alcohol itself. The average glass of wine contains about 14 grams of alcohol. There are seven calories per gram making up just under 100 calories per glass of dry wine.
As grapes ripen, their sugar content increases. If picked younger when they are less ripe, the sugar levels will naturally be lower. The lower sugar levels mean naturally lower alcohol. Basically, using not-so-sweet grapes makes a wine with lower alcohol and fewer calories.
Most low-calorie wines will have between 92 and 120 calories in a five-ounce pour. If you’re like me and tend to pour a little heavy with about six ounces, you should expect 110 to 144 calories in the glass. The calories that come from sugar in a glass of wine will total about six in a dry wine, 10 to 30 in an off-dry/semi-sweet, and 30 to 72 in a sweet wine. Dessert wines are over 72 calories from sugar and could go up to 130.
Cooler climate growing regions have a harder time getting to full ripeness, so these grapes have lower sugar and can be naturally lower in alcohol and sugar than wines grown in warmer climates.
Some reports show sales of low-calorie wines in 2020 and the increase ranges from 300% to 1000% depending on the reporting source.
I tried some low-calorie wines a couple of years ago and found them to be watery and without much flavor. When I was recently invited to taste Fall Creek Vineyards‘ Texas wines with low calories and low alcohol, I was curious.
Susan Auler is the co-founder of Fall Creek Vineyards, and she wanted a lighter wine for herself and their customers. She told me their winemaker, Sergio Cuadra, wasn’t certain it was a good idea, but was up for the challenge. The name “Lescalo” is a play on “less calories.” Susan told me drinkers are actively switching to lower alcohol options for some of their consumption, with 4 in 10 regular wine drinkers seeking to moderate their alcohol consumption. IWSR is a drinks market analyst firm that has forecast sales of lower-alcohol wine to realize a compound annual growth rate of approximately 27% from 2021 to 2025. Wine Intelligence echoes these estimates, reporting that the opportunity index for lower-alcohol wine in the U.S. in 2022 has significantly increased over 2021.
Fall Creek Vineyards employs a low-intervention method of making Lescalo Rosé rather than employing harsh techniques like vacuum distillation, centrifugal force, or reverse osmosis to remove alcohol from finished wine. Both Lescalo wines are made by harvesting grapes at optimal phenolic ripeness, but before they have a high sugar concentration. This is the natural way to create a lower-alcohol wine as opposed to utilizing an alcohol reduction process. Susan says, “Our Lescalo Rosé is perfect for people who want to enjoy a glass of wine that fits their active lifestyle.”
The newly released 2021 Lescalo Rosé reports in at 9.8% alcohol and 90 calories. And even better, the rosé is good. I mean really! It’s full-flavored, and I never would have guessed it was lacking anything. With strawberry, red plum, and a slight herbal note on the palate, the wine is very easy drinking on its own, but pairs quite nicely with a spinach salad with fresh fruits, a traditional chicken salad sandwich, or a nice soft cheese with berries. “Lescalo Rosé is made with a blend of Chenin Blanc and Tempranillo grapes grown in Texas, which are ideal for making lower-alcohol wine because both varieties have rich fruit flavors, plenty of body, and tangy acidity to make a lovely wine,” says Sergio Cuadra, director of winemaking.
This rosé is a new release for the warmer days of spring and summer. I also enjoy the 2020 Lescalo Chenin Blanc which comes with the same calories and alcohol. Chenin Blanc is one of my favorite white wine varietals and we make some fantastic examples here in Texas. This bottling is full-flavored with a medium body on the palate. There is a distinct fresh pear flavor with a hint of mandarin orange. The natural acidity keeps the wine bright and there’s no sense of a flat or wimpy wine. I like the wine with a roasted pork loin topped with tangerine slices, almond slivers, and sautéed sugar snap peas.
The newly released Fall Creek Vineyards Lescalo Rosé is available at the winery tasting rooms in Driftwood and Tow and on the winery website. You can also pick up a bottle at select retailers and restaurants in Texas including Yeti Liquor in the Shops at Steiner Ranch, Pogo’s Wine & Spirits in Dallas, Hargrove’s Fine Wine & Spirits in San Antonio, and Social House Restaurant in Fredericksburg for a suggested retail price of $20.00. Additional information is available at www.fcv.com.