Home > History of Wine > The Calories in Wine as Part of Field Rations During World War I

The Calories in Wine as Part of Field Rations During World War I


Today we may be focused on weight loss causing us to search for the number of calories in a glass of wine.   Nearly a century ago, the study of army rations shed light on the consideration of calories in wine. French, Italian, and Russian soldiers received wine as part of their rations during World War 1.  Not every country included wine in rations for the English soldiers might have received rum, the Spanish brandy, and the German brandy, wine, or beer.  Post-war studies tabulate the results as calories per daily ration and not as calories per glass of wine.  Thus the French Normal ration included 250 mL of wine equal to 212 calories or 5.9% of total caloric intake, the French Strong ration included 375 mL of wine equal to 320 calories or 8.0% of total caloric intake, and the Italian Combating ration included 179 calories worth of wine or 5.4% of total caloric intake.[1]  From another source the pre-WWI Russian Peace ration included 3 oz. of wine equal to 223 calories or 3.8%-5.0% of total caloric intake and the Russian War ration included 4.3 oz. of wine equal to 362 calories or 7.9% – 10.9% of total caloric intake.[2]


The volumes of wine for the Russian Peace and War rations are clearly incorrect.  It appears that many studies of army rations are based on the work of Charles Woodruff who stated that the Russians received wine.[3]  It is impossible for 4.3 oz or 127 mL of wine to provide 362 calories and it is more likely that instead of wine he meant spirits.  If we calculate the Alcohol By Volume for the French Strong ration there would need to be 15.6% ABV to obtain 320 calories from 375 mL of completely dry wine.  That seems incredibly high for the period.  If we allow for a generous 13% ABV and 10 g/L of sugar then we only obtain 282 calories from 375 mL of wine.  The implication is that the wine would have been fortified and perhaps contain some residual sugar.  So the next time you count calories from the glasses of wine you drink at dinner recall that it was once an essential part of a soldier’s diet.


[1] Funk, Elmer H. “Disorder of Nutrition and Metabolism” Progressive Medicine.  1920. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=hvceAQAAIAAJ&pg=PA5#v=onepage&q&f=false
[2] Thompson, William Gilman.  Practical Dietetics, with Special Reference to Diet in Disease. 1902. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=vMcRAAAAYAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[3] Woodruff, Charles E. “The United States and Foreign Army Rations Compared” Medical Record, Volume 55.  May 20, 1899. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=5xNYAAAAYAAJ&dq=russia%20war%20ration%20wine%20calories&pg=PA701#v=onepage&q=russia%20war%20ration%20wine%20calories&f=false
[4] Fitch, William Edward.  Dietotherapy, Volume 2. 1922. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=6L80AQAAMAAJ&pg=PP9#v=onepage&q&f=false

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