Despite its clear, refreshing palate, white wine contains more sugar and sulphites than red, rosé, beer and many spirits.
Another issue is just how effortlessly it slips down, despite being 13% alcohol by volume, meaning we drink far more of it than we realise.
Andrew Misell, a director at charity Alcohol Research in the UK, says: “White wine doesn’t have as strong flavours, so for many it’s an easy way to unintentionally drink too much. That’s what makes it problematic.”
According to official guidelines, we shouldn’t be downing more than 14 units a week.
But there are hints that the tide is turning against white wine. Anecdotally, increasing numbers of people are complaining that it’s too sweet, too acidic or that it brings out their inner ”white wine witch” – seemingly getting them far more drunk than other beverages and leading to worse hangovers.
So, with the help of some experts, here’s what to watch out for and why a glass of white wine might not be as restorative as you think:
Chef Gizzi Erskine recently admitted that she’s stopped drinking white wine. Why? It triggers her candida. The yeast infection, found in the gastrointestinal tract, causes chronic fatigue, depression, joint pain and impairs basic gut function.
Nutritional therapist Emma Cockrell says white wine’s high sugar content could cause, or at the very least exacerbate, the condition.
“If you drink white wine on a regular basis – combined with other factors such as having taken antibiotics, having been pregnant when hormone fluctuations upset the balance of microbes in the gut, or experiencing stress – a glass of wine a night can very easily tip the balance. Candida is fed by sugars, and wine is a great source of that.”
According to the UK Food Standards Agency, a medium glass of white wine can contain up to 10 times as much sugar as one of red; 3g per 100ml, compared to 0.2g in red and 2.5g in rose.
Comparatively, there is pretty much zero sugar in highly distilled spirits such as gin, vodka, rum and whiskey, as well as beer.
The UK charity Drink Aware likens wine to our favourite junk food treats in an attempt to show how calorific it is. One small 175ml glass contains 669kJ (160 calories), similar to a slice of Madeira cake. A large glass (250ml) with 954kJ (228 calories) is the equivalent of an ice cream cone. A bottle equals two chocolate croissants, or 2,845kJ (680 calories).
Light, sweeter whites such as Pinot Grigio and Riesling have fewer calories than drier whites, with higher ABVs, such as Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.
Sulphites is a buzzword when it comes to wine. These are naturally present compounds on grapes but have also been added to wine for hundreds of years as a preservative, thanks to their antioxidant and antibacterial properties.
Most modern wines typically have 20 to 200 sulphite parts per million and anything containing more than 10 must say so on the label. Anecdotally, sulphites have been linked to “drinking blues” and depression, as well as allergies, asthma, bad dreams and headaches. – The Daily Telegraph
• This article was originally published in The Times.