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The Best Low-carb Wines When You are on the Keto Diet


  • The Best Low-carb Wines When You are on the Keto Diet

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    Rejoice wine-lovers, for it is possible to enjoy an occasional glass of wine on the Keto diet. For celebrations and sophisticated dinners, there’s nothing quite like a glass of wine to connect you to the flavors of your food and the charm of your company.

    Of course, wine contains alcohol. Alcohol is sometimes referred to as the ‘fourth macro-nutrient’ because it is broken down in the body differently from carbohydrate, protein, and fat. Alcohol is a toxin, so your liver will start breaking down alcohol as soon as it can, turning alcohol into fuel rather than fat.

    This can mean that your fat loss will be temporarily slowed down while you are drinking.

    The key to enjoying wine on the keto diet is to remember to keep your servings small and infrequent, and to keep the carbohydrate load from the wine you drink to an acceptable level of your daily macros.

    You can do this easily by limiting your portion to one or two glasses of wine a week, and choosing from keto-friendly, low carbohydrate wines.

    You should keep in mind that in a state of ketosis, many people find that alcohol hits them harder than it would normally, so it’s a good idea to make sure you drink enough water and keep this in mind when imbibing.

    It is a good idea to have a post-drinkie keto snack or meal lined up so that you aren’t tempted to make unusual food choices as a result of consuming alcohol. The last thing you want is for your small exquisite glass of Syrah to lead to a late-night kebab run.

    If you plan ahead and drink sensibly, you can absolutely enjoy a wide variety of dry wines that suit nearly every palate.

    Here is a list of some of the best (lowest carbohydrate) wines you can enjoy on the ketogenic diet. All carbohydrate counts are given as per 5 oz serving glass.


    ‘Brut’ style Champagne (2 g net carbs)

    Despite being a drink traditionally associated with celebrations, most champagnes sold these days are in the ‘Brut’ style and are some of the lowest-carb wines around.

    Conveniently, the style of the wine tells you a lot about the carbohydrate content of the wine.

    The main styles of champagne (or other sparkling wines) are Extra Brut (less than 6 grams of sugar per liter), Brut (less than 12 grams), Extra Dry (between 12 and 17 grams), Sec (between 17 and 32 grams), Demi-sec (between 32 and 50 grams), Doux (50 grams). The most commonly drank style of sparkling wine is Brut, which has less than 2g of net carbohydrates per 5oz glass.

    A dry glass of sparkling wine is a great choice for the occasional indulgence on the keto diet, as it’s perfect for toasting a special occasion and it’s likely to be loved by people who are not avoiding carbohydrates so you can drink the same thing as everyone else.

    Champagne originating in the Champagne region of France which has been producing wine since Roman times. However, the traditional ‘bottle-fermenting’ version of sparkling wine wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for British glassmaking, which invented bottles strong enough to withstand the pressure of the gasses produced in the fermentation process.

    Champagne, as we know, was first popularised by Madame Clicquot, a 27-year-old winemaker who perfected the process of creating sparkling wine, and then invested in a massive marketing campaign to make the consumption of sparkling wine associated with the upper class, eventually making it a popular status symbol with the middle classes.

    Clicquot remains a popular brand of champagne to this day.

    The traditional method of brewing champagne is to begin the fermentation in vats, then to bottle the wine and add some sugar (to ensure the yeast has enough fuel to convert to bubbles and alcohol) and gently ferment a second time in the bottle. This method is fairly labor-intensive as it requires constant gentle turning to ensure even fermentation.


    Sauvignon blanc (3g net carbohydrates)

    Sauvignon Blanc is one of the great white wines to enjoy in moderation on keto because it can have wonderful fruit and floral notes despite having very low residual sugar. The flavor often is described as passion-fruit and ranges from acidic lime to rounded peach depending on the climate in which the grapes are grown.

    Sauvignon Blanc has a strong flavor profile which pairs wonderfully with Sashimi, among other stronger tasting foods. Pair Sauvignon Blanc with green vegetables, vinegar-based salad dressings, fresh herbs, oysters, shellfish, white fish, and goat’s cheese, all keto-friendly options in the right proportions.

    Sauvignon Blanc does not need to be aged and tends to come in screw-top wine bottles. This makes it an excellent last-minute purchase on the way to a party. It is best not to leave them too long before consuming because when they age, they can develop some pea-and-asparagus flavors over time.

    The ‘Sauvignon’ in the name may come from the same root word for ‘savage’ meaning ‘wild’ in French, named because the Sauvignon Blanc vine grows wild in France.

    Sauvignon Blanc is one of the most widely grown wine varietals which means you should have an affordable option near you wherever you live, whether Europe, South America, North America, Australia, or New Zealand.

    Sauvignon Blanc is possibly most associated with New Zealand. It tends to have a good depth of flavor due to the colder climate and slate soils from the regions in which they are grown.

    Sauvignon Blanc grown in New Zealand (and some wineries from the Loire region) tend to use a process called Malolactic fermentation which softens some malo acid naturally present in grape musk to lactic acid make it smoother and more drinkable without the need for residual sugar.

    Dry Pinot Gris (3g net carbohydrates)

    Pinot Gris grapes tend to ripen early in cold climates and with relatively high sugar levels. This means they can either be used to create a sweet, spicy wine in the French style or fermented for longer so that more of the sugars convert to alcohol - producing a dry but higher alcohol wine which is favored in the Italian styles (usually described as Pinot Grigios).

    This pairs well with fatty foods such as calamari salad or even fried fish - as well as vegetables such as tomatoes. Pairing with a no-carbohydrate meal means that you can enjoy the reasonable carbohydrate load.

    Pinot Gris grapes are named after the fact that on the vine the grape clusters look like a pine cone. You may also see Pinot Gris described as Pinot Grigio, the name most commonly given to refer to the Italian version of Pinot Gris wine.

    Genetically the grapes used in Pinot Gris are identical to those used in Pinot Noir, but with a mutation which makes the grapes a white color rather than the red in Pinot Noirs.

    Try chicken flavored with saffron or a pork roulette, some zesty salads or seafood selection.

    Chardonnay (5g net carbohydrates)

    The grape used to plant Chardonnay takes on the flavors of the terroir they are grown in, as well as the wood they are aged in which means there’s a huge variety in Chardonnay flavors.

    Chardonnay is enjoying a resurgence in popularity following the ‘Anything But Chardonnay’ movement which was a backlash of Chardonnay’s soaring popularly in the late 20th century.

    The ‘anything but Chardonnay’ movement encouraged people to seek out local wine varieties. This seems to have died down now and people are free to enjoy the buttery, oaky to light and zesty flavors of Chardonnay without stigma once again.

    It’s important to allow Chardonnay to rest out of the fridge a few minutes before serving. The layers of flavor won’t be evident below 10 degrees. Chardonnay which is too cold will simply taste too acid.

    One term used to describe Chardonnay is ‘buttery’, which means the texture, smell, or taste of the Chardonnay wine is reminiscent of the softness of butter. Interestingly, the chemical in Chardonnay wines which gives it its buttery flavor is used to give popcorn it’s buttery flavor.

    Buttery Chardonnays are somewhat out of favor at the moment, in favor of a straightforward acidic wine, but you can find a large array of flavors in chardonnays depending on your preference.

    To get the optimum drinking experience, read the descriptions on the bottle, and serve at the correct temperature.

    If you prefer a non-oaked, non-buttery wine you should consider Chablis. Chablis is actually a subset of Chardonnay, but it has some characteristics. It is very rarely oaked which means instead of an oaky, buttery wine, you will enjoy a light and acidic profile that goes particularly well with seafood, because of the flavor profile.

    Chablis wines dominated the Parisian and British markets for centuries, due to the growing region in North of Burgundy having a trade route down the Seine which allowed it to trade in huge quantities.

    This was disrupted during the industrial revolution by the introduction of the railroads to France, which allowed wine from all over the country to reach the affluent Parisian market, and from there the world.


    Pinot Noir (3.4 g net carbs)

    Pinot Noir is a light, smooth staple of popular red wines. Its low carbohydrate count makes it a good candidate for glass on its own or with food to cut through its light acidity.

    Pinot Noir pairs well with salmon, fatty meat and blue cheese, and has flavors of berry, clove, and herbs. Like its kissing cousin Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir grapes are named for its pine-like clusters of grapes on the vine.

    There can be a huge range of flavors in Pinot Noir depending on where the grapes were grown and the grape variety. Pinot Noir was grown by the nobility in the middle ages in plots near the cheaper varieties of grape grown by peasants, and this seems to have contributed to a high level of genetic diversity in the grape.

    Pinot Noir is lighter than many red wines, especially the inky black cabernets, because their skin tends to be less pigmented.

    An urban legend goes that Pinot Noir drinking became popular in the USA after the film Sideways featured Paul Giamatti’s character declaring a distaste for Merlot, which was the most popular red wine in America at the time. While this is probably apocryphal, it’s an interesting reflection of the cycles of popularity which styles of wine can go through in popular culture.

    A risk of purchasing Pinot Noir is that it tends to go through unpredictable aging patterns. When purchasing it’s advisable to taste if you can before buying, or read the description on the bottle carefully to ensure that you are drinking at the best time.

    Pinot Noirs can be somewhat more expensive than other wines due to the difficulty of growing the grapes. However, it does mean that each vintage is likely to have its unique flavor and charm.

    Cabernet Sauvignon (3.8g net carbs)

    Cabernet Sauvignon is the most popular grape variety planted in the world and has one of the heaviest bodies of all red wines. It is one of the darkest wines in color and can certainly be one of the most satisfying.

    As you might be able to tell from the name, Cabernet Sauvignon varietal originated when a Cabernet Franc vine was accidentally crossed with a Sauvignon Blanc vine.

    Cabernet Sauvignon has high tannins as well as high acidity which makes it able to age well - which makes it a good choice for a gift. It is the classic wine to pair with lamb dishes and stands up very well to spicy foods such as Moroccan.

    Cabernet Sauvignon grapes tend to take a longer time to ripen than other grape varieties. In cooler regions, this can sometimes lead to them being harvested while somewhat underripe and means they need to be blended with other similar grapes (such as merlot and cabernet franc) to round out their flavor.

    However, some drinkers enjoy the ‘green pepper’ flavor that underripe grape wines tend to have, which are common in those wines from some parts of California such as Monterey, where cool climates and high winds inhibit ripening.

    On the other hand, Cabernet Sauvignons from warmer climates can sometimes come from overripe grapes and can tend to be jammy and berry-like.

    Any blended cabernet is likely to have a very similar carbohydrate count as a straight cabernet sauvignon, so you do not have to be choosy with what kind of wine the cabernet sauvignon is blended with if it is blended.

    Winemakers in Bordeaux started blending cabernet sauvignons with other wine varieties as a result of the little ice age in Europe in the 1500s where crop failures were common and it was discovered that mixing wines with similar flavor profiles to even out under or overripe harvests can result in higher quality wines.

    Merlot (3.7 g net carbs)

    If you are not a big red wine drinker, Merlot is a good place to start. The body is medium, between that of Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. They pair well with rich food, tomatoes, though not cheese. It’s a good table wine but also enjoyable on its own, unlike some of the reds which benefit from a food pairing to draw the flavors out.

    Merlot often has fragrant and spicy licorice notes, as well as a berry, cherry, chocolate, and oak.

    Avoid serving Merlot with fish or with salad vegetables, as Merlot can overwhelm the light flavors of those dishes, and also avoid serving with spicy dishes, which can overwhelm the flavors of Merlot.

    Merlot is the second most planted grape varietal in the world and was one of the most famous varietals to come out of France’s famous Bordeaux region. The name Merlot may have come from the word ‘merle’, the Bordeaux term for Blackbird, so named for the black color of the grapes.

    Merlot grapes ripen quite a bit earlier than cabernet sauvignon wines, which is why the two grapes are often combined. They have a much lower tannin level than Cabernet Sauvignon which led to it’s soaring popularity in the USA for much of the 20th century.

    In the mid 20th century, a devastating frost wiped out much of Frances’ Merlot vines, and for the next 20 years, much of their vine stock was lost to rot. Partially due to this, Merlot vines tend to be much younger than those of many other varietals, which can be hundreds of years old.

    Merlot makes a wonderful addition to slow-cooked stews (though be careful to include this in the carb count) such as Boeuf Bourgnon. It also makes a good addition to (sugar-free) spiced wine, which can be a good vehicle to get the benefits of spices such as Cardamom and Cinnamon and can be an excellent way to use up the wine which has been uncorked for too long.

    Syrah (3.8 g net carbs)

    Syrah falls somewhere between Cabernets and Merlots in terms of their body and tends to be more fuller-flavored than Merlot. They can be thought of as a ‘step up’ from Merlot in terms of the sophistication of the flavors.

    Unlike Merlot, Syrah wines do stack up well against spicy foods and pair nicely with barbecue and ratatouille.

    Syrah is often described as ‘heavy on the mouth’, this is because of the high tannin load in the wine. This is one of the reasons that more experienced red wine drinkers tend to enjoy it more.

    While Syrah is the term for this wine used in France, in Australia and South Africa this varietal is often called ‘Shiraz’, named after a city in Iran where a different kind of wine used to be produced.

    While Syrah and Shiraz are the same variety of grapes, whether a wine is referred to as Syrah or Shiraz can be a good clue as to the country of origin and therefore the climate in which the wine has been grown. The old world Syrah’s tend to be lighter whereas the new world Shiraz tends to be fuller-bodied and more intense.

    Flavors you might be able to find in Shiraz include pepper, red fruit, blue fruit, and spice.

    Zinfandel (4.2 g net carbs)

    The unusual name for this wine is because it comes from Croatia, a wine-making region known for big, tasty wines. You may know the landscape of Croatia if you are familiar with the TV show Game of Thrones, which was mostly filmed there.

    Zinfandel has around 4.3g net carbs per 5 oz glass, making this the highest carb of the red wines recommended here. If you can’t get Zinfandel (much of which is now grown in the USA), you can substitute for an Italian Primitivo, a wine grown from a genetically identical grape.

    Zinfandel is best enjoyed around 17 degrees celsius, as the flavors are better at that level. If you serve it warmer, Zinfandel, like other ‘big’ red wines, can become astringent due to the tannins available.

    Zinfandel pairs well with beef dishes, as the strong flavors cut through the fattiness of the beef. Unlike some red wines, Zinfandels do not benefit from aging, so it is best to drink these within 6 months of purchase.

    Zinfandel is grown in California to such an extent that it is known as the American red wine. This means it will be more affordable if you have access to USA wine markets - otherwise, you might consider opting for an Italian Primitivo if you live in a region, such as Western Europe or Australia, where those wines may be more accessible.

    Zinfandel works well as an after-dinner drink, where you can enjoy berry and floral notes. It can be worth splashing out a little bit more for this varietal as the more expensive wines tend to have less residual sugars.

    You may come across ‘White Zinfandel’ but these are not true Zinfandels, they were effectively created by an accident in Napa Valley in the 1970s. They are also much higher in carbohydrates than the true Zinfandel, so they aren’t recommended for keto followers.

    So there you go!

    Choose wine which sounds like you and enjoy a glass of two with a meal or on their own, as part of your daily carbohydrate budget. Try to enjoy the experience you share with humans throughout the history of sipping a gorgeous wine.

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