Counting calories with Geoff Kalish, MD

Reader mail: Which has more calories, red or white wine?
-Jill via yahoo mail

Well although I am a doctor, I’m not that kind of doctor. But I know where to turn. So I sat down with Geoff Kalish, MD who used to write a column about wine and health for the Wine Spectator.

Dr. Vino: So which is more caloric, red or white?

Dr. Kalish: Neither. The color of the wine makes no difference on the calories.

Dr. V: Aha! A red herring. So what does make one glass of wine more caloric than another?

Dr. K: Primarily, the alcohol level. A four ounce glass of wine at 12 percent alcohol has about 120 calories; the same size with a wine 14 percent alcohol has about 140-160 calories; a 16 percent alcohol wine, about 160-190 calories.

Dr. V: Holy Turley, Batman! What about residual sugar in a wine? Does that make a difference in the calories?

Dr. K: Not as much as alcohol.

Dr. V: What about moscato d’Asti at 5.5% alcohol and lots of sugar?

Dr. K: Sugar provides many less calories per gram than does alcohol (4 compared to 7). Moscato is a lower calorie wine. That, prosecco, brut zero Champagne are all low calorie wine choices. It’s zinfandel, amarone, some California chardonnays, for example, that have higher calories because of the alcohol level.

Dr. V: So should people watching their weight cut wine out as an easy way to reduce calories?

Dr. K: No. Research has shown a small amount of wine in a weight loss plan can actually act as an appetite suppressant, in part because of the alcohol level as well as the pectin content. However, young, tannic reds appear not to have this effect, so aim for a wine that is 11 – 12% alcohol and not overly tannic.

Dr. V: Interesting. I thought red wine was overall the “healthier” drink because of those tannins.

Dr. K: Tannins may have other health benefits but this is just in terms of acting as an appetite suppressant.

Dr. V: All right, thanks. And bottoms up with a dry chenin blanc!

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13 Responses to “Counting calories with Geoff Kalish, MD”

  1. Another great reason to drink New York sparkling wine!
    Kathleen Lisson
    Albany, NY

  2. Alas, I simply love California zins. But I love hiking, too! Ah, thankfully the one indulgence balances the other.

  3. Kathleen – A new target audience for the wines of the region–dieters? The Finger Lakes Diet?!?

    Hiker – sounds like you are running in calorie balance!

  4. Yes. NY grapes don’t get to much sun and heat, so our wines are lower in alcohol.
    I’m putting myself on the Finger Lakes Champagne diet this weekend.

  5. Great article! Really interesting that it’s the added alcohol that adds sugar. I always felt guilty ordering Moscato — or in my case, Brachatto d’Asti which also has LOTS of residual sugar. Thanks for doing the interview.

  6. I, for one, am not forsaking my tannins just to lose weight!
    I will just have to exercise harder….

  7. Pectin?! Wow. I used to sell imported jellies (not my fondest memory) and all we talked about was what made a good jelly and that was when a company allowed the jelly or jam or whatever to bind using it’s own natural pectin. The mass produced stuff has added pectin. Knowing that pectin is a binding agent I kind of did a double take when I read that it was an element in wine. And not only that but along with alcohol it acts as a appetite suppressant. Now that is something worth dissecting. Cool interview!

    P.S. Ah, life before wine. pounding the pavement of NYC selling imported chutney. I am so glad I found the juice!


  8. Here’s new news, Dr. Vino. I’m reading on page 76 of Karen MacNeil’s Wine Bible that “wines with a small touch of sweetness, such as some rieslings, may have an additional 5 – 10 calories.” You can see my review of her book and other books at

  9. Funny she didn’t mention alcohol the alcohol level and its role in calories, since it is significant. I heard her say that it took 10 years to write the book, published in 2001, so maybe when she penned those lines, high alcohol was not the issue it is today.

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  11. […] since most of wine’s calories actually come from the alcohol in it, perhaps the ultimate diet wine is a dealcohlized wine with some indigestible […]

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