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Wine Advisor: Feds to allow nutrition labels on wine

by Robin Garr » Fri May 31, 2013 4:25 pm

Feds to allow nutrition labels on wine

"How many calories are in a glass of wine? How many carbs? Is there any fat or cholesterol? And come to think about it, how much wine is in a glass?"

I get a lot of wine questions, and more than a small share of them fall into this general category. People want to know whether a glass of red wine will do as much dietary damage as a Quarter Pounder. (Answer: no). Or they hope a glass will make as light a snack as a few stalks of celery. (Well, no to that, too, unless you really load the celery up with Roquefort dressing or pimento cheese).

For many years, though, the wine industry has fought, kicked, screamed and held its breath until it turned blue against any suggestion of the government requiring nutritional or ingredient information through regulation.

Now, though (with a hat tip to The Wine Curmudgeon blog for digging this out), the U.S. Treasury Department's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) has hit on a working compromise: Under a new rule issued May 28, wineries may i]optionally[/i] place the familiar nutritional analysis label (pictured above) on bottles of wine.

By avoiding a mandatory rule, TTB gets the labeling concept into the marketplace without massive industry resistance and, if it takes off with consumers, commercial pressure will likely make the labels univeral. Some key industry players are apparently pushing for it, The Wine Curmudgeon reports. Diageo North America, for instance, a giant drinks distributor, apparently led an industry coalition in its favor.

My guess is that the industry will wage continued war against ingredient labeling, which opens all sorts of new doors that many would rather keep shut, such as unveiling the use of acidifying or deacidifying materials, coloring compounds and other goodies that might reveal some wines aren't as "natural" as we want to believe.

But this is a good first step, and based on the numbers and frequency of wine nutrition questions that cross my desk, I expect it will be popular.

The new labels may start appearing soon, as TTB has issued a temporary rule spelling out details while regulators write the final rules. While you're waiting, though, here's some overview info from our WineLovers Questionary:

How many servings in a wine bottle?

If you're serving wine with dinner, you can get five generous (5-ounce) pours out of a "fifth" (750 ml) bottle. For a wine tasting, where people are taking smaller sips of several wines, count on at least a dozen 2-ounce tastes, or, if you're really stretching to share a taste of a prized wine with a large group of friends, perhaps 20 tiny tastes of a little over 1 ounce.

How many calories in wine?

Just because wine contains no fat or cholesterol, don't get the idea that you can drink a lot of it without showing the results on your waistline.

The exact calorie content of wine varies depending on both its alcohol and sugar content, so a strong, sweet wine like Port has a much higher calorie load than a dry table wine of normal strength. But you can assume that your 5-ounce glass of dry red or white table wine is likely to have 100 to 125 calories, while a rich dessert wine could go up to 150 calories or more for a smaller 3-ounce glass.

How many carbohydrates in wine?

If you're on a low-carbohydrate diet, you might want to take wine off your bill of fare for the duration.
Wine contains no fat and no protein, but just about all of its not-insignificant calorie content is in the form of carbohydrates and alcohol, which is metabolized much like a carbohydrate.

Wines vary substantially depending on their alcoholic content and whether they have residual sugar, but a 5-ounce glass of dry white table wine may have 1.0 to 1.25 grams of carbohydrates, while a similar portion of red may go up to 2.5 grams, and sweet wines with their high sugar content will have substantially more, up to the range of 10 grams in a 3-ounce serving of a strong dessert wine like Port.

Bear in mind that low-carbohydrate diets may reduce calories, but they do this by adding a frightening level of calories from fat to your daily intake. I suggest a good moderate lifestyle of sensible eating (including wine!) and exercise, and consult your physician for advice if you feel a need to diet.


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Re: Wine Advisor: Feds to allow nutrition labels on wine

by ChaimShraga » Fri May 31, 2013 5:42 pm

FWIW, I managed to lose over 40 pounds dieting and heavily exercising over the course of less than a year while consuming over two bottles of wine a week. The problem,IMHO, is not the caloric intake but the effect of wine (and alcohol in general) on the appetite.
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Re: Wine Advisor: Feds to allow nutrition labels on wine

by Peter May » Sat Jun 01, 2013 7:54 am

I am all for a wine bottle to show its calorific content.

I am confused by the 'Serving Facts' illustration.

I am not good at dealing with numbers, but since US wine bottles show their contents in metric as 750mL, and if the serving size is 148mL, and there are 4.75 servings in the bottle then by multiplying 148 by 4.75 one should get 750. Instead I get 703

No doubt it's something to do with conversions between metric and US fl oz but the missing 47mL represents almost one-third of their standard serving.

This will no doubt be corrected, but I wonder

-how accurate the calorie measurements are/will be
-what the allowed tolerances will be, will it they be as flexible as the abv
-whether any independent agency will police the claims

Don't get me wrong, I am all in favour of knowing the calorific content of the wine I am drinking -- I've been counting calories over the past few months to lose weight.

But, we know wineries understate abv because high abv puts off some purchasers (and/or attracts higher tax) and there will be great temptation to underestimate calories.

And if the stated abv is lower than the actual abv then the calories calculated from that abv will also be lower.

(In UK 125mL is a standard serving, i.e. one sixth of a bottle, 175mL is a medium serving and 250mL is a large glass)
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Re: Wine Advisor: Feds to allow nutrition labels on wine

by Robin Garr » Sat Jun 01, 2013 9:57 am

Peter May wrote:I am confused by the 'Serving Facts' illustration.

I am not good at dealing with numbers, but since US wine bottles show their contents in metric as 750mL, and if the serving size is 148mL, and there are 4.75 servings in the bottle then by multiplying 148 by 4.75 one should get 750. Instead I get 703

No doubt it's something to do with conversions between metric and US fl oz but the missing 47mL represents almost one-third of their standard serving.

Peter, I expect it is a mathematical practice known as "rounding." :roll: Divide a 750-ml bottle five ways, and everyone will get a five-ounce serving, or as close as makes little difference.
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Re: Wine Advisor: Feds to allow nutrition labels on wine

by Tim York » Sat Jun 01, 2013 12:16 pm

This is a thoroughly good idea, IMO. It would be even better if the sugar within the carbohydrates were specified, as on jam pots, together with acidity.
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Re: Wine Advisor: Feds to allow nutrition labels on wine

by Peter May » Sun Jun 02, 2013 7:03 am

Robin Garr wrote: Peter, I expect it is a mathematical practice known as "rounding." :roll: Divide a 750-ml bottle five ways, and everyone will get a five-ounce serving, or as close as makes little difference.


According to the label they aren't dividing the bottle 5 ways but 4.75

As I said, I am confused by the label.
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Re: Wine Advisor: Feds to allow nutrition labels on wine

by Robin Garr » Sun Jun 02, 2013 8:21 am

Peter May wrote:
Robin Garr wrote:As I said, I am confused by the label.

I'm sorry then. I can't think of any simpler way to say it than "rounding" or "approximation."
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Re: Wine Advisor: Feds to allow nutrition labels on wine

by Thomas » Sun Jun 02, 2013 2:57 pm

A 750ml bottle of wine equals 25.360516919175 (to be exact) ounces, which is 5.07 per glass (to be inexact), certainly not 4.75 ounces per glass.

Multiply 5.07 by 148 ml. and you are at the 750ml mark.

I have no idea why the label claims serving size at 5 fluid ounces and 4.75 glasses in a bottle.
Last edited by Thomas on Sun Jun 02, 2013 4:54 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Wine Advisor: Feds to allow nutrition labels on wine

by Victorwine » Sun Jun 02, 2013 4:48 pm

I could see it now; I’ll have to take out my lab grade graduated cylinder to pour my guest’s wine.

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Re: Wine Advisor: Feds to allow nutrition labels on wine

by Thomas » Sun Jun 02, 2013 4:55 pm

Victorwine wrote:I could see it now; I’ll have to take out my lab grade graduated cylinder to pour my guest’s wine.

Salute


You mean you don't already?
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Re: Wine Advisor: Feds to allow nutrition labels on wine

by Mark Willstatter » Sun Jun 02, 2013 5:41 pm

Thomas wrote:A 750ml bottle of wine equals 25.360516919175 (to be exact) ounces, which is 5.07 per glass (to be inexact), certainly not 4.75 ounces per glass.

Multiply 5.07 by 148 ml. and you are at the 750ml mark.

I have no idea why the label claims serving size at 5 fluid ounces and 4.75 glasses in a bottle.


I think I can explain how it got that way but I can't make it any less silly :wink: It comes down to three things: two sets of units, an insistence on whole numbers in both systems, and (as Robin guessed) rounding. So first somebody decided that there were about 5 servings rather than, say, 6. Divide 25.36 ounces by 5 and, as you say, you get 5.07 ounces per glass. Only we're insisting on whole numbers, so it gets rounded down to 5 ounces even. You clearly are already aware there are just over 29.57 mL per fluid ounce. Multiply 5 by 29.57 and you get just over 147.85 mL. Again, though, we're insisting on whole numbers, so it gets rounded up to 148 ml, 2 mL short of what you would have had if you'd just divided the 750 mL by 5 glasses in the first place.

As I said, silly. Just one more example of your U.S. federal government at work. This isn't unique to wine: subject just about any of our nutrition labels on any other food product and you'll find if you do the math it rarely adds up to the total contents of the package.
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Re: Wine Advisor: Feds to allow nutrition labels on wine

by Mark Willstatter » Sun Jun 02, 2013 5:45 pm

Just realized I didn't explain the 4 3/4 servings. I'll have to think about that one. Math-challenged bureaucrats?
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Re: Wine Advisor: Feds to allow nutrition labels on wine

by Victorwine » Sun Jun 02, 2013 7:23 pm

On a Nutrition Label the FDA I believe gives you a 20% leeway. IMHO the reason why the serving size and serving per bottle was “rounded down” was to make the alcohol and calorie numbers slightly lower than they actually are per bottle hence per serving.

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Re: Wine Advisor: Feds to allow nutrition labels on wine

by Thomas » Sun Jun 02, 2013 9:03 pm

Mark:

It used to fun for filing purposes when ATF wanted everything reported in gallons and NY State wanted everything reported in liters--and this was before we used computers unsparingly in the wine business...
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Re: Wine Advisor: Feds to allow nutrition labels on wine

by Peter May » Wed Jun 05, 2013 11:25 am

Robin Garr wrote:
Peter May wrote:
Robin Garr wrote:As I said, I am confused by the label.

I'm sorry then. I can't think of any simpler way to say it than "rounding" or "approximation."



It's been niggling me because I could not see how rounding accounts for getting a result of 4.75 after dividing 25 by 5 (or 750 divided by 148)

So I checked the linked TTB document. Now I know the reason. It's not a result of rounding; the illustrated label is not for 750mL bottle of wine, it's for a "malt beverage can" of 23.5 fluid ounce capacity.

On wine labels the TTB shows five 5 oz servings per bottle.

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