How Much Wine is Too Much?

drinking red wine on a picnic blanket

Here at I Love Wine, we know we’re constantly introducing new styles of wines to try, suggesting different wine regions to check out, and encouraging you to try making your own wine. So much wine! But, how much wine is too much? We’d love to say that there is no such thing, we know there are limits depending on the context.

For a Night Out

It’s easy to get carried away drinking wine during a night out, especially if you’re a quick drinker. You wouldn’t be the first person to put away a few glasses on the dance floor before realizing how many you’d had to drink.  How much wine it takes to get drunk depends on a variety of factors, including how much alcohol is in the particular wine and whether you’ve eaten or not.

If things get hazy and you can’t remember how many glasses of wine you’ve had, it’s probably a good time to stop. It’s safest to just have one glass of wine per hour, assuming the bar is giving you standard size pours. If you want to slow the effects of the alcohol, have a meal with that first drink, too. The food will help slow the alcohol absorption in your stomach and keep things from getting too out of hand.

The one drink per hour rule is also good to keep in mind if you plan to drive home. (To be extra safe, make the last round a glass of water.) This rule of thumb stems from the approximation of your blood alcohol concentration and the legal limit for driving. Remember, you can still be impaired while below the legal limit of 0.08. You can still get a DUI if you’re under that limit, too.  So, when in doubt, get a ride with a friend or call an Uber.

how much wine is too much

If You Want to Avoid a Hangover

Some say they get hangovers with even a few glasses of wine, while others can drink many more. There’s no perfect answer to this one, but we have a few suggestions to help ward off the headache the next morning.

First, you should know that there is no magic bullet for avoiding a hangover. There aren’t supplements or pills you can pop before bedtime that will guarantee an easy morning if you’ve overdone it. Strong coffee doesn’t make a difference either. It’s simply going to take some time for your body to metabolize all that alcohol. It will be processed in your liver and released through your breath, sweat, and urine.

Your body can absorb alcohol a lot faster than it can metabolize it, so the key is to pace yourself. One standard drink (by US standards) contains 14g of alcohol.  It takes your body about an hour to break this down. (It happens slightly faster and more efficiently for men than for women, too. That’s why a lot of the calculations out there have gender differences.) So, if you stay under this limit and have no more than one drink an hour, you should be fairly safe from a hangover.

If you have more than this, you can possibly ward off a hangover by drinking water. Either have glasses of water in between glasses of wine, or drink lots of water before you go to bed. Most of the symptoms of hangovers are from dehydration, since alcohol is a diuretic. (This means it makes you pee a lot.)

After some point, however, no amount of water or rehydration will spare you. So, it’s best to stick to the one-per-hour rule. Enjoy wine responsibly and stay headache free!

pouring champagne at a wedding

For a Wedding or Special Event

It can be a daunting task determining how much wine to buy for a wedding or another special event. You want to buy enough that you don’t run out right the middle, but overbuying can break your budget or leave you with endless identical cases of wine.

You can save yourself this special sort of headache by doing a bit of math based on your guest list. Considering the age, drinking habits, and dinner choices can give you a pretty good estimation. (Caterers usually have formulas, too, but may not share them if they’re not buying the wine.)

If you know your guest list will be mostly wine drinkers, a good bet is to buy at least one bottle of wine per guest for a 4-5 hour event. Most people will have two drinks per hour in the first hour, followed by one drink per hour after that. (There are about five glasses of wine per 750 ml bottle.) Count on buying about 13 bottles of champagne per one hundred guests, too.

woman exercising

For Dieting and Weight Loss

It’s hard not to fall in love with headlines that suggest wine is somehow good for weight loss. There was even one recently about how a glass of wine was the same as going to the gym for an hour! Wouldn’t that be lovely if it were true?

Unfortunately, it’s not true. That study was about a compound called Resveratrol which is found in grape skins, as well as blueberries, raspberries, mulberries, and peanuts. The researchers were doing experiments with rats to see if Resveratrol could increase exercise capacity. The study didn’t have anything to do with wine, nor did it say that the compound (or wine) could replace exercise. Still, someone connected those dots and made up a catchy headline. The researcher noted if you wanted the same dose of Resveratrol they were giving the rats, you’d have to drink between 100 and 1000 bottles of wine. Yikes! So, we hate to break it to you: a wine club membership isn’t going to replace your gym membership.

The bottom line is that wine is not calorie free, so it is certainly possible to have too much wine if you are looking to lose weight. A glass of wine has between 110 and 300 calories and 2-5 carbs depending on the style. Losing weight can be a complicated journey (consult your doctor!), but at minimum, most people need to establish a calorie deficit to lose weight. In other words, you’ll need to burn more calories each day than you take in, and every calorie counts.

How much wine is too much for you to lose weight depends on how many other calories you consume and burn each day. There are formulas to help you calculate the ideal calorie deficit you should aim for, which take into consideration gender and weight. From there, you can calculate how much wine is safe to add (or best to eliminate) and keep on track.

By the way, those crazy diets like this wine and egg diet from the 1970’s worked because they restricted calories so much, and not in a healthy way. Even if you limit calories, you need to be sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need. While wine does contain some nutrients, it’s definitely not enough for good health.

For your Bank Account

There are so many lovely, expensive wines that can make your paycheck disappear before you realize what happened. Whether you’re a passionate wine lover or simply enjoy regular bottles with dinner, budgeting is going to be a fact of life. You’ll need to take into consideration your income and all the other expenses in your life. If you find you’re living paycheck to paycheck, yet your wine refrigerator is stocked, you should probably re-evaluate your wine buying habits.

One of the best things you can do is take a logical approach to wine drinking. Follow these tenets and you’ll have pretty good luck staying within your budget.

  • Enjoy inexpensive wines with weeknight dinners. Even in the most prestigious winemaking regions in the world, there is such a thing as a simple dinner wine. (Dolcetto is a wonderful example of this.)
  • Save the fancy wines for special occasions. It’s understandable to be eager about expensive wines that you’ve invested in. It will be better for your bank account to save them for birthdays, anniversaries, and special celebrations.
  • Join a wine club. Wine clubs offer variety, savings, and sometimes send suggestions for recipes and food pairings. You can choose the perfect plan and delivery schedule for your budget.

With all that money you’ll save by responsibly budgeting, you can start planning that wine vacation you’ve been dreaming of.

gorgeous view of vineyard

For Your Health and Well-Being

How much wine is too much for your health and well-being? This is also an important question and one we don’t take lightly. (We’re certainly not offering medical advice here either. If you have concerns about how drinking is affecting your physical or mental health, please speak with your doctor.)

According to the CDC, moderate drinking is about 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men. Again, a standard drink in the US contains about 14g of alcohol. This is equivalent to:

  • 12 oz of beer (5% alcohol)
  • 8 oz of malt liquor (7% alcohol)
  • 5 oz of wine (12% alcohol)
  • 1.5 oz of 80-proof (40% alcohol) distilled spirits or liquor, which is about one shot.

In the US, binge drinking is defined as having 5 or more drinks in a row for men and 4 or more for women. It also suggests a time frame of about two hours for these drinks. The CDC further defines heavy drinking as including 15 more more drinks per week for men,  8 for women.

Most people who enjoy alcohol overdo it from time to time, but regular, heavy drinking can be quite hard on the body over time. It can cause cirrhosis, pancreatitis, and increase the incidence of some cancers.

Too much alcohol can also lead to emotional and psychological issues that can impact every area of your life. Alcohol is a pretty common choice for people who self-medicate. This makes it harder to tease apart the causes of the issues and solve them. It may seem like a glass of wine each night can ease your mind after a stressful day, for example. Unfortunately, alcohol can also make anxiety and depression worse. Alcohol may also interfere with antidepressants and other medications.

If you’re worried about your drinking, please contact your doctor and ask for help. <3