|Tuesday, July 13th 2004|
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If counting carbohydrates is driving you to drink, you may want to take comfort in a glass of wine -- a beverage naturally low in carbohydrates.
Some winemakers are beginning to capitalize on this fact and the low-carb craze by marketing their already low-carb products as, well, low-carb drinks.
"We're meeting the needs of 59 million consumers who are counting carbs on a daily basis," said Andrew Varga, vice president and global brand director at Brown-Forman Wines, the Louisville wine and spirits company that has just introduced One.6 chardonnay and One.9 merlot.
Each is named for its respective carb count per 5-ounce serving, the federal standard on which low-carb claims must be measured.
Sutter Home Family Vineyards is offering carbohydrate and calorie information on its Web site (www.sutterhome.com) and promotional material in stores.
Diageo Chateau and Estate wines, maker of BV Coastal Estates, Sterling Vintner Cellars and Century Cellars, is printing up low-carb "neckers" to slip over bottles.
The federal government allows winemakers to trumpet their low-carb status as long as the labels offer other nutritional information, such as number of calories, fats and proteins.
To qualify as "low carb" under interim federal guidelines, the wine must contain fewer than 7 grams of carbohydrates per 5-ounce serving.
Most wines would qualify under this standard, with dryer wines generally running in the 2- to 5-gram range. Wine containing more than 7 grams of carbohydrates per serving may be labeled as "reduced carbohydrates" or "lower carbohydrates" if the wine contains lower levels of carbohydrates than the wine company's regular product.
Varga said the two Brown-Forman wines have been greeted with enthusiasm since their introduction in April, with 300,000 cases ordered so far. A One.9 cabernet sauvignon is due in August.
Todd Hess, wine director of Sam's Wines & Spirits in Chicago, believes carbohydrate counts may indeed play into a consumer's decision on what wine to buy.
Labeling a wine as "low carb" leaves the implication that other wines are "high carb," he said. And, of course, most aren't.
Much of the government's reluctance in allowing low-carb labeling stems from concern that such a claim could leave the impression that low-carb wines "may play a healthy role" in a weight maintenance or weight reduction plan.
Lynn Danforth, a nutrition specialist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, also worries about a false impression being created.
"Can we say drinking alcohol is a healthy thing for people? We can't say that," she said. "Drinking alcohol has significant risk. Most people in the health field wouldn't recommend it.
"One shouldn't be deluded or misled that just because alcohol has a label saying it is low-carb that it is a healthy food."
Ironically, low-carb does not mean lower calories. Most calories come from alcohol and drier, low-carb wines tend to have a higher percentage of alcohol than sweeter wines. But sweeter wines have higher carb counts because of their residual sugars.
For example, Sutter Home's sauvignon blanc may have just 2.7 grams of carbohydrates per 5-ounce serving but the calorie count is 122, according to the winery's Web site nutrition page.
Sutter Home's white zinfandel has 8.3 grams of carbohydrates per serving but only 108 calories per serving. (One.9 merlot has 125 calories per serving; One.6 chardonnay has 120.)
Which is best for you depends on your situation.
"Some people need to be more concerned about calories, some need to be more interested in low-carb," Danforth said. "The reasons to drink are not about health. It's more for pleasure."
A blind tasting of the One.6 chardonnay and One.9 merlot pitted these newcomers against three moderately priced competitors.
The question was whether these especially low-carb wines would stand out in some way because of their level of carbohydrates. They did not.
Although the One.9 merlot emerged as the top scorer overall and the One.6 chardonnay came in second among the whites, there is little for these wines to boast about.
If not for their low-carb count, they would be indistinguishable from the vast sea of similar wines out there.
Consumers counting carbs need to remember two things: The government's low-carb standard is an interim ruling subject to change, and now there's a debate in the wine industry over the correct way of measuring carbs in wine.
Note: I used a graham cracker with mine.
Mix all ingredients together with fork. Press mixture firmly. Put mixture in a 9 inch 230mm spring form pan. Flatten using back of large spoon. Bake at 325 for 10 minutes.
Carbohydrates per Serving : 3.55 (with crust 5.1)- Carbohydrates per Serving minus Fiber: 2.90 (with crust 3.1)
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