No, not an oxymoron. Here are the top RD-approved options for filling your glass.
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Whether you’re anxiously awaiting the end of Dry January so you can return to your cozy glass of post-work Pinot or because you can’t wait for those participating to put an end to their #humblebrag blasts on social media, you’re not alone.
According to Wine.com, the nation’s leading online wine retailer, wine sales were up 217 percent between April 1 and September 30, 2020, compared to the same period last year. Given the times, this comes as little surprise—market research provided by Nielsen reports that the U.S. sales of alcoholic beverages increased 55 percent during the first week of the pandemic in late March 2020, with online sales rising a whopping 243 percent. Spirits like gin, tequila, and bottled cocktails jumped 75 percent in sales, wine was up 66 percent, and beer rose 42 percent compared to the same period last year.
And why not? When consumed in moderation, wine is an exceedingly delightful way to round out a stressful day (a cheese plate won’t hurt, either). For everything you need to know about the health benefits—hello, antioxidants—and drawbacks of drinking wine, find our guide here. And remember: When it comes to alcohol, monitoring the amount you consume is the most important thing you can do for your health. According to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, women should try to consume no more than one glass of wine per day.
“There are ‘better for you’ wines out there, but it’s smart to keep some basics in mind,” explains Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, nutrition expert and author of Smoothies & Juices: Prevention Healing Kitchen. “The actual serving size for a glass of wine is 5 ounces (at 12% alcohol-by-volume, or ABV). So even if you’re drinking the driest red out there, the booze is going to add up, even if the sugar isn’t.”
So if you’re hoping to make smarter decisions surrounding your alcohol consumption, kudos! Thankfully, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go cold turkey. “Not all wines are created equal and will vary in terms of calories, sugar, and alcohol content,” explains Mia Syn, MS, RDN.
Here, Largeman-Roth and Syn weigh in on the best and worst options in the wine aisle.
“Wine—whether it’s red, white, or rose—all contains resveratrol, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects,” explains Largeman-Roth. “But since red wine is fermented with grape skins longer than white wine, it’s higher in resveratrol.” Syn agrees: “Red wines like pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon tend to be highest in resveratrol antioxidants, which research suggests may support heart health.”
Remember: Alcohol by volume isn’t everything. “The ABV of wines can vary highly, from 5.5% up to a super boozy 20% (ports and such),” says Largeman-Roth. “But just because a wine is lower in ABV, like moscato, it can still be very sweet. There are some wine brands out there that don’t add any sugar in their processing—some brands do—and also don’t add sulfites, which may help you feel better after a night of Netflix and chilling. I like the ones from FitVine, and just tried the sparkling wine from Avaline, which I thought was delicious.” For low-alcohol sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, or pinot noir with zero grams of sugar, you can also check out Sunny With a Chance of Flowers.
According to Syn, if you’re also looking to curtail the amount of calories you’re consuming from wine, then dry sparkling and white wines are a good bet. “I recommend brut Champagne, cava, pinot grigio, and sauvignon blanc. These have lower sugar content, which contributes to their lower calorie count,” she says. Wines higher in residual sugar include moscato and port, she adds.
“You can add sparkling water to wine, which is a fun way to stretch your serving—plus I think it’s extra refreshing in the summertime,” says Largeman-Roth. “And you can also use it to reduce the calories in a drink that calls for prosecco. For example, a classic Aperol Spritz calls for equal parts Aperol and prosecco, plus a spritz of soda water, but I skip the prosecco and just combine a shot of Aperol with sparkling water. It’s delicious, and I like that the bitterness of the Aperol comes out a bit more.” For the ultimate guide to making wine spritzers, see here.