Wine School

Let’s Go There: Wine vs. White Claw

When it comes to flavor, soul, and yep, even White Claw's calories — wine’s still got it, baby.

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By Sarah Hoffman

August 11, 2021

White Claw can and wine glass

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During the summer of 2019 as we were building Maker the market for hard seltzers absolutely exploded. This Summer of Seltzer proved to have staying power; Nielsen dubbed spiked seltzer the most resilient alcohol segment in the U.S. in 2020. Its growth only increased during the pandemic; spiked seltzers reached $4 billion in sales in 2020, compared to $1.5 billion in 2019. Hard seltzer buyers have decreased their share of spending on beer (5.6 points) and wine (4 points), and our own survey data also shows that hard seltzer is directly taking share from the wine world.

And I’ll admit, as a budding young 20-wait-make-that-30-something, I was seduced by the siren song of the seltzer as well. Just 100 calories, light, and refreshing, it promises a guilt-free social buzz. 

So as a card-carrying millennial who gets the appeal and as a wine lover ripping my hair out, I decided to take a closer look.

Spoiler alert, wine wins.

Bang for your Buzz

I’m going for the jugular. Spiked seltzers are not that low cal. While the big, boxed, “100 calorie” on the front of the can is alluring, wine has roughly 2.5x the alcohol of White Claw and Truly (5% ABV for spiked seltzer vs. 11-15% ABV for wine). Here’s the true comparison of the “single drink” equivalent of wine vs. spiked seltzer. 

Wine vs. White Claw Calories:

A standard hard seltzer: 100 calories for 12 oz. 2 grams carbs / sugars. 

A standard glass of white wine: 120 calories for 5 oz. 4 g carbs, < 2 grams sugar (Wine Spectator)

So yes, ~20 more calories per “drink” for wine, with comparable carbs and sugar. 20 calories is less than your average carrot. So eat one less chip and have a gorgeous glass of wine.

Wine’s got “bang for your buzz.”  And while the point of drinking isn’t the ease to getting boozed up, I’m willing to bet that’s what the claw crew is after. On average, “tastes like nothing” spiked seltzer drinkers consume 2.8 cans per sitting. And "how many White Claws does it take to get drunk" has tens of thousands of monthly searches. So if you’re looking for a nice social buzz without consuming 36 oz of flavored malt liquor, wine is here for you. 

Misleading Marketing

White Claw’s tagline is “Made Pure,” presenting it as a healthy alternative to wine or beer. Hate to burst your bubble, it ain’t craft vodka and pure sparkling water.

What alcohol is in White Claw and other hard seltzers? It is typically malt liquor or fermented cane sugar with added artificial fruit flavors and sweeteners (no real black cherries were harmed in the making of your beverage).

And even if this was high quality booze, no alcoholic beverages are health beverages. Wine is having its own reckoning with marketing-driven “clean wine” brands claiming to be a healthy alternative to traditional wine, when their products are not any “healthier” or “more natural” than (and in fact don’t live up to the standard of) wines from high quality small producers. 

Other words thrown out to describe these drinks include keto-friendly (check out our Keto Wine Guide), gluten-free, and vegan — guess what, the vast majority of WINE IS ALL THESE THINGS TOO.

6 Maker cans in a row

Eat one less chip and have a gorgeous glass of wine.

Soul

We’ve established that alcoholic beverages are not a health drink, they are an indulgence, a delicious, treat-yo-self end to the day. So, in the words of Joey Tribianni, “If you’re going to do something wrong, do it right.” 

When you purchase White Claw you are supporting billionaire Anthony von Mandl, who has made it his life’s mission to “bring booze to bros” as the maker of Mike’s Hard Lemonade and now spiked Seltzer. 

Wine’s got soul, baby. When you purchase high quality wine from local wineries you are supporting artists — small producers who have made this beverage their craft and life’s work. Each glass reflects a time and place, and is made from real fruit with natural ingredients (no, “natural lime” doesn’t count). 

If you NEED the absolute lowest calorie option, buy craft vodka from your local distillery and pair with sparkling water. You’ll be supporting a small biz and may even feel a little bit better in the morning. 

And if you love being able to throw a can in your bag on the way to the park, try premium canned wine insteadAll the convenience, none of the crap. Let’s make 2022 a canned wine summer.

*Updated February, 2022.

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