When It Comes to Drinking Wine, How Much Is Too Much?

“When in doubt, order the bottle,” my good friend Jenny instructed me to do years ago as I was preparing for my first trip to France. It was good advice and one that I had no difficulty following whatsoever. The wine floweth—both abroad and stateside—ever since.

Now, research suggests that women may experience a boost in brain power when they consume a little alcohol, and that word “little” is not to be ignored. The recommended guideline for women, as stated by the 2005 Dietary Guidelines, is one drink per day, for a total of five ounces of wine. But, in the warmer months especially, I sometimes catch myself ordering another glass when perhaps an herbal tea would be a better choice. And when friends come over for summertime dinners, my request is always the same, “You don’t need to bring anything at all, though I’m sure we won’t turn away a bottle of wine!” My generous friends, knowing that I’m going to fill their bellies and possibly send them home with leftovers, bring along several bottles, which all get opened and consumed over the course of the evening. As New York Times wine writer Eric Asimov recently pointed out: “Drinking wine in the summer is different. Not because people tend to eat lighter, or because it’s hot. It’s the vibe.”

Regardless what that vibe is and how you choose to honor it, it’s still important to keep in mind that the calories do add up. I hate to be a buzzkill, but unfortunately, even if you’re one of the lucky ones who can imbibe an above-average amount of wine without incurring any type of hangover the next day, you still should be budgeting the drinks into your daily calorie intake. One five ounce pour is about 123 calories, almost twice as much in a Nestle tollhouse cookie! Thus, if you must have another glass, better plan on skipping dessert!

In terms of how drinking the good juice affects you mentally, only you can really answer the question of how much wine is too much. I know that if I go to sleep, only to wake up at an odd hour and can’t fall back asleep, I’ve probably had too much. And at that point, when I’m tossing and turning at 4 a.m., it hardly seems worth it.

Still, who can resist a glass or so at dinner? But if you’re interested in at least limiting your consumption, one possible solution is to drink wine only when you’re eating. So, don’t open the bottle until you’re at the table, and if you’re at a restaurant, instruct your server to wait to bring you a glass when the entrées arrive.