Just How Big Is a Serving of Wine, Anyway?

protea pour

Next time you pop a cork and are about to pour yourself a glass of wine, try this: Get out an 8-ounce measuring cup and fill it just a bit past the halfway mark. Then transfer the contents into your usual wine glass.

If you’re like a lot of people, this pour won’t look might much – but that’s a serving of wine! Actually, if you’re drinking some of today’s higher-octane wines, it might even be more than a serving.

This is how it works: In the U.S., a “standard drink” contains 0.6 ounces of alcohol. At 15 percent alcohol – increasingly common in today’s wines – that means a serving is a mere 4 ounces, or one-half of one cup.

The good news is that if the wine is lower in alcohol, you can pour a little more before you hit the standard-drink threshold. For instance, for the Protea Chenin Blanc, which checks in at 13 percent alcohol, a “serving” is 4.6 ounces.

In a bygone era, popular wines tended to be around 12 percent alcohol, and you’ll still see that benchmark used in depictions of serving size.

government standard drink

Image from National Institutes of Health

Here’s something we all should realize, though: In real life, our servings are often quite a bit more generous than this.

Researchers actually ran some tests and found that when using common large-bowl stemware, people will pour around 5.6 ounces into the glass, on average. The wider the glass, the bigger the pour. Also, pours of whites tend to be bigger than reds. Holding a glass (vs. setting it on a table) also induces bigger pours.

These are all things to keep in if you’re tracking your intake – and things to consider, too, if you’re trying to figure out how much wine you’ll need for an event you’re planning.

Here’s our rule of thumb: Figure on getting four glasses of wine from a standard 750 ml (25.3 ounces) bottle.

Those are relatively big pours, quite a bit more than a “standard drink,” but it’s a realistic approach.

From there, you can use simple arithmetic to figure out how many bottles to have on hand if you’re entertaining. For example, for a dinner party of eight, you would need four bottles in order to average three glasses per person.

There are, of course, other reasons to be aware of how much alcohol you’re consuming. For some people, calories are a concern.

How many calories are in a glass of wine?

Calories in typical dry table wines, which have negligible residual sugar, come more or less entirely from the alcohol. Only a lab test can determine the precise number of calories in a wine, but each gram of alcohol is 7 calories, so we can crunch out an estimate based on alcohol level and serving size.


For the “standard” 5-ounce pour of 12 percent wine, that works out to 124 calories. But if you’re doing a 6-ounce pour, and the wine is 15 percent alcohol, the calories shoot up to 186 calories per serving.

Or, if you want to think of it in bottle terms, the range goes from 630 to 790 calories per bottle.

By the way, beginning in December 2016, restaurants and other food establishments with twenty or more locations will have to begin posting the calorie counts for wines they serve.


Thirsty for more wine knowledge? We pour it on with these blog posts:

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