Alcohol: Units & Calories

Wines of Interest is committed to the Public Health Responsibility Deal in relation to the consumption of alcohol.  To this extent we have issued this information leaflet on alcoholic units, how to calculate them and the associated calorific values.  Please note however that we are Wine Merchants and not doctors nor scientists.  If you require more detailed information or a necessarily medically precise list, you would do well to consult your GP.
Wine, of course, is designed to accompany food and we would suggest it is best consumed that way.
How many units of alcohol can I drink?
Current government guidelines (source: Drinkaware website) are that men should not drink more than 3-4 units a day and women should not drink more than 2-3 units a day.  It is interesting that the government now choose to express this “per day” since in the past the guidelines have been expressed as units per week (28 for men, 21 for women, although 21 and 14 respectively have also been mentioned).
Recent suggestions have been made that a couple of alcohol free days each week are also recommended which, based on the “per day” guidelines, produce figures closer to the lower weekly totals.  The main point here though is to give your body a rest from alcohol on a regular basis and never to drink too much in a single session.
 How many units are there in a glass of wine?
This depends on the strength of the wine and the size of the glass.  A small (125ml) glass of a light German white wine might typically contain less that one unit of alcohol whilst a large glass of Australian red might contain as many as 3½ units.
 How can I work out the number of units then?
Take the strength of the drink as a percentage of alcohol by volume (this will be on the bottle), multiply it by the volume of your glass (in millilitres) and divide by 1000. 
Here is an example for a 175ml glass of wine at 13.5% abv strength.
13.5 x 175 = 2,362.5. 
Divide that by 1,000 for the answer that this glass contains 2.3625 units of alcohol.
 Can I drink alcohol every day?
It’s a free country and there is no law that says you can’t do this, but the question is not whether you can, but rather whether you should.  Alcohol consumed in large, and frequent quantities is not good for you, so giving your body a rest occasionally makes sense.
 Why do wines seem to be getting stronger?
Several reasons, probably led initially by the misunderstanding that stronger equals better.  This is emphatically not the case.  Wine is about balance, but alcohol is currently the only factor measured and stated on the label, so it’s the one that most people take the most notice of.  Our climate is certainly changing and stronger wines are one of the consequences, but harvests vary from year to year with some producing higher alcoholic levels than others.  Good winemakers will take a non-intervention approach and let nature do its work.  Some producers are being encouraged (by the large retailers) to take steps to reduce the strength of their wines but we are not in favour of tinkering with a natural product to this extent as the balance of the wine will be disturbed.  We say let nature do her work and, if your alcohol intake worries you, have a glass of water for your thirst and the wine for the flavour.
 How can I consume less alcohol without affecting my enjoyment of wine?
The Wines of Interest suggestion of “Don’t drink more, drink better” is a good place to start.  There is a wealth of wines out there waiting for you which cram more flavour and enjoyment in a bottle than so much of the mass-produced so-called “deals”.  If your aim is simply to get sloshed then clearly any old wampo will do, but in our experience people who drink wine don’t do it to get drunk, they do it because they like wine, so why not treat yourself to one special bottle every so often instead of spending the same amount on 2 or 3 bottles that leave you with no lasting impression of enjoyment?
 Will it help if I give up alcohol for January?  Or Lent? Or at any other time?
Giving up alcohol in January (which is shorter than Lent since you ask) is something that we are aware a few people do.  But it’s probably important to first ask yourself why you want to do this.  Is it because you think you’re drinking too much because if it is, what’s to stop you doing the same again once your period of abstinence is over?  Giving your body a rest from alcohol is good, whether it’s for a month or more, a week, or just a couple of days.  Two days a week, every week, is better for you than nothing for a month and then no breaks for the next 11 months.
 Do the health benefits attributed to red wine also apply to white wine?
The health benefits claimed on behalf of red wine are mostly down to Resveratrol, a phenol found in the skins of red grapes and apparently not present in the skins of white grapes.  Even if drinking red wine has all the benefits it claims it is still the booze that you have to watch.  Wine certainly isn’t horribly unhealthy, as long as you don’t overdo it. 
Alcohol in general can be both good, and bad for your health. Here’s what Drinkaware say about the health benefits of alcohol:
  • overall, alcohol only gives you benefits if you drink within the government's daily unit guidelines
  • any protective benefits on the heart generally only work over the age of 45  
  • beyond the recommended limits, alcohol’s potential benefits on the heart are outweighed by its risks of getting other illnesses, such as liver disease or cancer
  • any benefits on the heart depend on your overall consumption and general pattern of drinking (how much and how often).
Diet also matters of course, any health benefits will soon be eroded by a poor diet and no exercise.
How do I work out how many calories there are in a glass of wine?
Right – another maths lesson then…
1g of alcohol contains about 7 calories and 1ml of alcohol weighs 0.8g.  So we first need to multiply the abv (alcohol by volume) percentage of the drink by the amount of liquid to find the amount of alcohol. 
 Let’s use our 175ml glass of 13.5% abv wine we had earlier, this contains 23.625ml of alcohol since:
175ml x 13.5%abv = 23.625ml (of alcohol). 
23.625ml of alcohol is then multiplied by 0.8 to give 18.9g of alcohol which, multiplied by 7, is 132.3 calories
 Had you chosen a 125ml glass of 12%abv wine you would have saved yourself about 48 calories since:
125ml x 12%abv = 15ml of alcohol which, multiplied by 0.8 gives 12g of alcohol which, multiplied by 7 is 84 calories.
OK.  I want to cut down my alcohol consumption, what should I do?
Start small so you don’t set yourself an unrealistic target.  It’s good to have a couple of alcohol free days each week so, if you’re not already doing that, pick a couple of days to not drink at all.  If you need further advice and an easy-to-use system to achieve this we recommend a booklet by Dr Chris Williams from the “Living Life To The Full” series. 
The title sucks because it’s called “Fix Your Drinking Problem In 2 Days” which implies that you have a problem before you’ve even started when you might just want to cut down a bit but need a system to help you. 
This is a good system and the book will cost you £2.50 (or less).  ISBN: 978-1-906564-93-3
 How can Wines of Interest help me enjoy wine more and do so in a responsible way that won’t harm my health?
It’s back to our “don’t drink more, drink better” suggestion really.  Take what you spend on wine and spread it over fewer bottles thus increasing the quality of what you drink and simultaneously reducing your alcohol consumption.  You’ll get more enjoyment out of a better bottle of wine that’s for sure. 
 We have heaps to choose from, and we don’t try and con you with “too-good-to-be-true” deals; we’re not the cheapest, but nor are we expensive either.  What we can promise is good value wines to savour and enjoy to suit every budget and taste.
 Why have Wines of Interest bothered to write this leaflet?
We have signed up to the Department of Health Public Health Responsibility Deal and made a specific commitment to try to raise awareness of the importance of enjoying alcohol responsibly.  For further information on the Responsibility Deal click here
 Wines of Interest has always encouraged the responsible enjoyment of alcohol and aim to assist customers in exploring the fantastic variety of quality wines available through such schemes as our Sampling Club and winetastings.  At the same time we anticipate that those who believe that alcohol is one of our society’s big problems would recognise the difference between those suppliers who promote alcohol in an irresponsible way with idiotic offers at the bottom end of the market to consumers who drink simply to get drunk, and specialist retailers like Wines of Interest who supply individually selected, quality, hand-crafted drinks simply as a civilised adjunct to enjoyable and healthy living.
Anything else?
Yes.  Much of this is a message to the consumer (you) from the Government and its associated health advisors (them) via the people on the front line who sell the stuff (us).  The advice is sound but it would be unreasonable to leave this one-way communication in such an unbalanced way, so here is a message from “us” to “them”.  We hope “you” agree.
 When he was Chancellor, Alistair Darling introduced something called the Excise Duty Escalator which automatically increases this tax by 2% above inflation each year.  This enables subsequent Chancellors to stand up and announce “no additional increases on alcohol” at Budget-time thus suggesting that the tax on your favourite tipple is unchanged, and blaming any increase on everyone else, but don’t be fooled since this sneaky little tax has increased by 35% over the last 3 years (and you pay VAT on it too).  Clearly the Government need the money (so “do they really want us to drink less then” you may ask?) but the effect of this has been to hugely raise the proportion of tax in a bottle of wine at the cheaper end of the market.  Clearly something has to give to maintain the critical price points and sadly that “something” is quality.  Government taxation policy isn’t encouraging us to drink less, it’s encouraging us to drink rubbish; whether or not we buy better wine the Excise Duty paid to HMRC is the same.  The missing piece of the jigsaw of course is minimum pricing and if the Government really wanted us to drink less they would embrace it fully by removing at a stroke the irresponsible deals so frequently seen in both the supermarkets and the on-trade.  We will all take the health points seriously, of course, but it really is about time that we saw some responsible action from the Government as well which is designed to support their advice.

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