Beer and Wine Whats in a Name

Today these products appear on supermarket shelves.

But just what do the descriptions mean, and how much alcohol do they contain?

Near beer: Malt beverage that has an alcohol content below 0.5 percent by volume. It also can be labeled a "malt beverage," a "cereal beverage," or when the label says "contains less than 0.5 percent alcohol by volume" as "nonalcoholic."

Low-alcohol or reduced-alcohol beer: Malt beverage with less than 2.5 percent alcohol by volume.

Alcohol-free malt beverage: Malt beverage that contains no alcohol.

Flavored malt beverage: Malt beverage (beer, lager, ale, porter, stout) flavored after fermentation, perhaps with juice, fruit, or juice concentrate—for example berry-, lemon-, or orange-flavored beer.

Aperitif wine: Wine with an alcohol content of 15 to 24 percent by volume, made from grape wine and added brandy, or alcohol flavored with herbs or other natural aromatic flavorings.

Fortified wine: Wine that has brandy or distilled spirits added to it. Dessert wine has 14 to 24 percent alcohol by volume, more than table wine.

Table wine: Wine that has 7 to 14 percent alcohol by volume. Light wine, red wine, and sweet table wine are all types of table wine.

Low-alcohol wine: Wine, or fermented fruit beverage, that is less than 7 percent alcohol by volume. Low-alcohol wine isn't necessarily lower in calories; it may have more sugars than other wine.

Wine cooler: Diluted wine product (diluted with fruit juice, water, and/or added sugars) with an alcohol content of less than 7 percent by volume. Read the label's Nutrition Facts for calorie content per serving. Wine coolers may have more alcohol and calories than you think since a serving is usually bigger: often 12 ounces, rather than a 5-fluid-ounce glass of table wine.

Sources: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (2001); U.S. Food and Drug Administration (personal communication, 2001).

As an aside, most beers contain 5.0 to 5.5 percent alcohol by volume. In the United States and Europe, a pale beer (usually a lager), rather than a dark beer, may be referred to as a light beer. The alcohol content is about the same as in regular beer, but the calories are somewhat less. An alcoholic beverage with more than 24 percent alcohol by volume is defined (and taxed) as a distilled spirit.

Need more strategies to boost your fluid intake? Check here for "how-tos":

  • Buy the type of milk, including soy beverage, that matches your needs—see chapter 11.
  • Scout for nutrient-rich drinks when you eat out—see chapter 14.
  • Get enough fluids when you're physically active—see chapter 19.
  • Know how to fit milk in if you're lactose intolerant—see chapter 21.
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