Yes, Wine Is Almost Always Considered Gluten-Free

Exceptions include dessert wines or wines with added flavoring

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Is wine safe if you follow the gluten-free diet?. Getty Images/Image Source

In almost every case, wine is gluten-free to well below the legal limit of  20 parts per million of gluten. That includes champagne, since champagne is simply sparkling wine. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule for wine.

If the wine in question has any added coloring or flavoring (fruit-flavored dessert wines, for example, often include added ingredients), then it might not be gluten-free—you'll need to contact the manufacturer to make sure.

Other Ways Wine Might Not Be Gluten-Free

If you're extremely sensitive to gluten cross-contamination, you may find yourself reacting to certain wines—even wines without additives. You're not imagining your symptoms—there are a couple of other ways gluten can sneak into wine.

In some cases, the culprit will be the use of wheat gluten as a fining, or clarifying, agent for the wine. Since we expect our wine to look clear, wine makers turn to products that can remove any visible particles. These products are called fining agents.

Fining agents are made from a wide variety of substances ranging from clay to egg whites and the shells of crustaceans (which is why people with certain food allergies need to watch out for wine). It's uncommon—but not impossible—for a fining agent to contain gluten. If this is the case, the wine maker does not have to disclose it on the label.

In other cases, the culprit in a glutening from wine will be the wheat paste used to seal the wooden wine casks used to age the wine.

Again, not all wine makers age their vintages in wooden casks (many prefer stainless steel tanks these days), but if you react to a wine that has been aged in a cask, you may possibly be reacting to that wheat paste used to seal the cask.

Whether you're dealing with a gluten-containing fining agent or a wine that was aged in a wooden cask sealed with a wheat paste, it only will add a truly miniscule amount of gluten to the finished wine—perhaps in the range of 1 to 2 parts per million (or even less).

Now, this is a tiny amount of gluten—so small that it takes the most sensitive gluten testing methods to detect. And the vast majority of people of those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity will never notice symptoms from it. So unless you know for certain that you react to certain wines, you shouldn't worry about it.

What if Wine Gives Me Symptoms?

First, experiment to make sure they're not from something else. I've frequently compared glutening symptoms to the world's worst hangover, so make sure you're not mistaking a real hangover for the kind induced by gluten.

In addition, some people with irritable bowel syndrome-type symptoms find that alcohol (yes, wine too) is a trigger for them. Learn more about this possiblity: Is It Gluten, or Is It IBS?

But that being said, a very few of those who react to gluten will notice symptoms from the tiny trace amounts of gluten in wine. If you're one of them, take heart: you don't have to give up your wine! Fortunately, there are a couple of steps you can take.

First, you can consider looking for varieties that are aged in stainless steel casks—that solves the problem of the wheat paste used to seal wine casks made from wood. I've had great luck with sauvignon blancs from New Zealand, but there are plenty of other options out there.

Second, you can contact individual vineyards to see what fining agents they use. With the growing popularity of the gluten-free diet, more vineyards have become aware of the needs of their gluten-sensitive clientele, and may be open with you about their fining agents.

Finally, if you find a wine you like (obviously, one that doesn't cause your typical glutening symptoms), buy a case and stick with it. That way, you'll always have safe wine to drink.

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