Units of Alcohol and Calories

Authored By Ben Fisher

So what comprises a unit of alcohol? It’s a useful thing to know these days, especially with reference to drinking and driving – although in this case it’s simply best never to mix the two. You may want to keep an eye on your weekly intake, which the UK government has (some believe fairly randomly) prescribed as 14 units for women, and 21 for men. There is also a link between quantity and calorie intake, which many may be concerned about from a diet point of view, and which may affect your wine tasting habits.

The fact is that one unit of alcohol is not very much alcohol at all. Some guidelines:

Half a 175ml glass of wine
Half a pint of 3.5% ABV beer, cider or lager
25ml of spirits
25ml of sherry or vermouth

There is a simple formula for working out units of alcohol which is:

Strength (ABV) x volume (cl) ÷ 100 = No. of units

So by this method we can calculate that a 75cl bottle of wine at 13% alcohol is 9.75 units. However it’s important to realise that all individuals react in different ways to amounts of alcohol, and that keeping your intake within the bounds of certain calculations doesn’t mean you aren’t intoxicated. The legal limit in the UK for driving after drinking is 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 milligrams of blood, or 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath. But this is just a guideline, and people are obviously affected in different ways and by various factors. Other countries are more draconian, and the simplest solution is just don’t drink and drive.

Calories in alcohol have actually little to do with strength, but may be an interesting addendum to this article. Again some guidelines – a 175ml glass of the below will have pretty much the following calorie content:

Dry white wine – 116
Medium white wine – 130
Red wine – 119
Rosé – 124
Sparkling – 130

While a 50ml glass of port will contain about 78 calories.


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