Just Juice Part 2: the truth about wine (and fructose)

I am a little behind in my posts this weekend so I thought I’d take it to the opposite extreme and give you all a two-parter.

I’ve been following Sarah Wilson for a few years now. Originally from Australia, she is currently in the US promoting her I Quit Sugar program. I have found her recipes and blog posts generally to be extremely helpful for my own journey with food. Much of her program centres around cutting fructose out of our diets, which – as you may or may not be aware – is right up my alley.

As I experimented with my diet, I became acutely aware of the patterns around my metabolism, different foods affected me in a variety of ways when I excluded or included different things. But one of the most dramatic – and immediate – changes that occurred when I cut sugar out of my diet was my tolerance for alcohol. Sure, there is argument for the fact that our metabolism slows with age, but at the time I was in my late twenties and for someone who spent their evenings on a stage and then socialising with cast members and friends in that timeless haze of post-show splendour, it was a game-changer. Suddenly the bottle became two glasses – any more than that and I would be heading into black outs and raging hangovers. Not only did I have no recollection of my night – and therefore my life – but I was brain dead and depressed for days afterwards. But worse still, it was almost as though I slipped into an alternate world. I thought I was superhuman, I thought I was invincible. I could talk to anyone, eat everything, go anywhere, be anyone. I could fly. But I wouldn’t remember it. I just knew it felt good at the time. And I never wanted it to end.

‘There is a definite moment. One minute you are there and then the next your eyes glaze over and you’re gone. It’s like you check out. One minute you are Erin, the person that I love and want to spend time with, and the next you scare me.  There’s no getting through to you. You are stubborn and completely unaware of where you are at, what you are capable of. And the truth is, you can barely stand up.’

This is what one of my closest friends very bravely said to me after a night out for a thirtieth birthday dinner. Reality check #1.

Then I ran my Nissan NX – a gift from my uber-generous auntie and uncle who simply ‘never drove’ it – into oncoming traffic after an afternoon at the race track. Not just any oncoming traffic – a BMW. Just in case I didn’t get the message.

The spring racing carnival is big in Melbourne. You get frocked up, slap on a truckload of sunscreen, cake on your make up, stomp around in high heels that inevitably sink into the soft grass, bet on horses and drink. What you don’t do is drive home. But apparently I do. Because I’m invincible. Because I’ve done it a thousand times before. Because I am different – I am a fucking hero.

To this day I don’t remember a thing. But I saw the fallout: I know there was an ambulance, I remember the hospital, the neck brace, I remember the moment my heart fell to pieces – through the alcoholic haze – when all four of my siblings walked into the emergency room, I’ll never forget my eldest brother, Ben, sitting with me all through the night, despite my father’s comments that ‘she’ll be alright’ (no disrespect Dad, it would have been difficult to sit with).

And then I remember the bald patch on my forehead where I shaved off my hair on the windscreen, I remember the therapy sessions, the astronomical repair bills (for that BMW I so cleverly targeted, not my NX – she didn’t make it, she was – luckily, I suppose – the one fatality of the day), the court case – my girlfriend, Mel standing strong and steady beside me, the loss of license, the fear, the sobering…

I remember the carnage in my heart.

And then I remember the awakening. The emergence and exploration of that question that has been burning ever since: Who Am I?

At this point, can I just say – I had no idea this was where this post would go. I wanted to talk about wine and whether or not I can drink it as a fructose-free girl. I guess my truth about wine and how I drink these days is a very different story. But let me finish with this ode to Sarah Wilson, who posted this on her I Quit Sugar website just a couple of days ago. Because I am still exploring. I am still questioning. Because, my story continues…


One of our most popular pages on the I Quit Sugar website is Can I drink wine?

Many people are surprised to find that wine contains minimal amounts of fructose and is okay to drink in moderation while quitting sugar. For info on sugar in other alcoholic beverages click here.

Our community editor was in Adelaide recently and caught up with Rosemount Estate chief winemaker, Matt Koch, to get to the bottom of why wine in moderation won’t affect your sugar-quitting mission.

Five questions with Rosemount Estate:

How much residual sugar is there in a glass of wine?
If the wine has been fermented to ‘dry’ (white or red) it contains very low levels of residual sugar – less than 1g/litre – and in most cases not at a level that can be practically tested.
What happens to the fructose in the grapes?
Fructose is one of the main sugars contained in grapes. This is converted into alcohol and carbon dioxide by yeasts, which is why at the end of the fermentation process there are minimal levels of fructose remaining.
Which wine has less sugar: Red or white?
Generally, high priced, high quality wines are produced as dry wines and contain less than 1g/litre of residual sugar. Commercial dry white and red wines, i.e. wines selling under $10 a bottle, generally contain 3-10g/litre of residual sugar, with white wines containing higher sugar levels than red wines (on average).
What about dessert wines and wines that are sweeter on the palate?
Dessert wines and sweeter wines contain both fructose and glucose – the levels vary depending on the ripeness of the fruit and the variety of grape. They’ve either been fermented for a shorter period of time so that plenty of sugar still remains, or additional sugar is added to the wine after fermentation.
Are there particular grapes that are better suited for people steering clear of sugar?
People who want to avoid sugars completely should select dry (i.e unsweetened red or white wines) and they would be advised to look at the more premium end of the wine categories. Always ask the experts. If you’re at a restaurant ask to speak to the sommelier and if you’re choosing a bottle from your local bottle shop the staff should be able to point you in the right direction.

Note: Although this is good news regarding the fructose levels in wine, remember it’s still alcohol. There are a multitude of metabolic and health issues that come with excessive consumption.



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