Recently I have been struck by the flurry of talk about how many people, millennials in particular, are choosing hard seltzers like White Claw over wine as their beverage of choice. Much of the argument in favor of hard seltzers is that they are the healthy alternative to other alcoholic beverages.
I often see White Claw being sold on attributes like “gluten free,” “no artificial sweeteners,” “paleo friendly,” and “plant-based.” Guess what? Wine is exactly all those things also. Wine is just grapes and yeast. It’s about as natural as it gets for a beverage. The problem is that we as the “wine industry” often forget to inform our customers of these attributes.
When comparing White Claw to Wine, a 12 oz. can has 100 calories, 2 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of carbs. Wine typically (5oz. glass) has 125 calories, 2 grams of sugar (if semi-sweet), and 3 to 4 grams of carbs. Not that much difference when it comes to calories and a slight difference when it comes to carbs. Our Petite Pearl red wine has slightly less sugar than this example. I know that carb intake is a big deal to those on low carb or keto diets where the goal is less than 20 grams per day. Here is the thing about carbs: they come primarily from the alcohol content in the beverage. The lower the alcohol content the lower the carbs.
One benefit of the wine that we produce here in the Wisconsin and other cool climate wine regions is that we often harvest our grapes with a much lower sugar content than grapes grown in hot climates like California or Australia. What does that mean? It means that wines that we grow are lower in alcohol content than wines that come from places like California. I grow grapes and produce wines for Parallel 44 and Door 44 that are often harvested at 20 brix that when fermented, and often only 11% alcohol. Grapes harvested in Napa Valley are often over 26 brix that when fermented, are often over 15% alcohol as wine. Another advantage of wine from Wisconsin is that our cooler climate keeps the acidity quite high in the grapes and the resulting wine which works as a natural preservative for the wine, unlike wine from hot climates like California. What does that mean? It means that we here in Wisconsin probably end up using less than half the sulfites that you would find in a bottle of California wine.
But the most important thoughts I would like to leave with you over this debate between hard seltzer and wine is this: Ask yourself does that can of seltzer have a generational or regional story that you can enjoy? Ask yourself does that can have multiple and nuanced flavors and aromas that change over the course of time as you enjoy it? Was that can of White Claw artisanally handcrafted? Was it grown sustainably and produced with family pride that comes from generations of wisdom and passion? The answer is no, but yes when it comes to wine.
For those of you wine enthusiasts wrestling with what to drink, here is an idea. I have not tried it yet, but would love to hear from you. Try this next time you choose wine, pour yourself a half glass of your favorite wine and then top it with some hard seltzer. Maybe you might get the best of both worlds!
Cheers! Steve Johnson
Parallel 44 / Door 44