Is Wine Gluten-Free?

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  • Fact checked
A person holding a bottle of red wine is pouring some red wine in a wine glass.

is wine gluten free | Making Gluten-Free Wine | Industry regulations | Cross Contamination | How to buy | Other gluten free drinks | flavored wines and coolers

Wine might seem like a safe bet for those on a gluten-free diet. After all, as grapes are naturally gluten-free, so should wine be. Unfortunately, the answer is a little more complex.

Here is everything you need to know about gluten-free wine, from how it’s made to industry regulations.

Is wine gluten free?

Most wines are made from grapes or fruits like peaches, berries, plumps, etc. Fruits do not contain any gluten. Thus, natural uncontaminated wine is gluten-free.

However, there has been a long-standing myth that wine is not gluten-free and unsafe for people with celiac disease to drink. That myth is based on the argument that wines could get cross-contaminated by gluten-containing ingredients like barley and wheat flour.

How is gluten-free wine made?

Most fruit wines in their purest form are gluten-free.

Here is an overview of how red/white wines are prepared. This will allow you to understand how these wines can get contaminated with gluten.

Step 1:

The grapes are crushed, and the skins are removed.

Step 2:

The crushed grapes, now called ‘must,’ gets fermented for a few weeks. Yeast is added to the must in order to start the fermentation process.

Sparkling varieties of wine may go through one more round of fermentation. At this stage, the wine is still gluten-free.

Step 3:

The wine is then clarified. After fermentation, the wine is clarified to remove any solid particles and cloudiness. This is done using fining agents to make the wine clear.

The most common fining agents used are casein (a milk protein), albumin (egg whites), gelatin (animal protein), isinglass (fish bladder protein), and bentonite.

Most commercial wines go through a filtration process as an extra step to ensure that the final product is free of any solid particles.

Step 4:

After the wine is clarified, it is ready to be aged. Wine can be aged in oak barrels, stainless steel tanks, or a combination. 

Stabilizing agents may be added at this stage to help the wine keep its color and flavor.

The most common stabilizing agent used is sulfur dioxide. After aging, the wine is bottled and ready to be sold.

Industry regulations for gluten-free wine

In order for a wine to be labeled as “gluten-free” in the United States, its manufacturer must adhere to a set of guidelines established by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).

TTB, along with FDA, allows “gluten-free” claims on alcoholic beverages, including beer and wine, as long as the finished product contains less than 20 ppm of gluten [1]Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau: TTB Ruling.

What makes wine unsafe for people with celiac disease?

Here is how wine gets contaminated and becomes unsafe for people with celiac disease.

Fining

During the process of fining, some winemakers may use gluten instead of gelatine [2]ResearchGate: Use of wheat gluten as clarifying agent of musts and white wines to clarify the wine. Studies suggest that a trace amount of gluten can be transferred to the wine during this process.

Even if the gluten transferred through this process falls below 20 ppm, it can be enough to trigger symptoms in a small subset of people with celiac disease.

Aging and bottling

Wine can be exposed to gluten during barrel aging. Barrel aging is a process in which wine is stored in oak barrels to give it flavor and complexity.

These barrels are sealed with wheat paste, which contains gluten. As a result, a small amount of gluten enters the wine and contaminates it. Thus, a wine that has been barrel-aged may contain trace amounts of gluten.

Points to consider while buying wine

Given that wine can be exposed to gluten during the wine-making process, it is important for individuals with gluten intolerance to be vigilant when buying wine. When purchasing wine, people with celiac disease should: 

Read the label

Look for wines labeled as “gluten-free” or “certified organic.” Most manufacturers will mention on the labels if the product is gluten-free. You can contact the manufacturer if you’re unsure about a particular ingredient.

Check for cross-contamination in multi-ingredient wines

Wines or wine products made from multiple ingredients may be more likely to contain traces of gluten.

It is best to choose single-ingredient wine as it reduces the chances of gluten contamination.

Contacting the winery directly is one of the best ways to get information about their manufacturing process.

Be wary of flavored wines

Flavored wines may contain gluten as an added ingredient. These products often use flavorings made from wheat, barley, or rye, which can trigger symptoms in individuals with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

Purchase wine from trusted sources

When purchasing wine, it’s important to buy from a trusted source that specializes in selling gluten-free products. This will help ensure that the wine you purchase is truly free of gluten and suitable for those on a gluten-free diet. 

Other gluten-free drinks options to try

There are many delicious beverage options available that are gluten-free, including: 

1) Cider: Cider is made from apples, which are naturally gluten-free. Most commercial ciders are distilled. However, it’s always best to check the label to be sure. 

2) Distilled Spirits: Distilled spirits [3]National Celiac Association: Is alcohol made from grain safe for people with celiac disease? are considered naturally gluten-free because the distillation process removes all proteins, including those found in wheat, rye, and barley. So whether you consume vodka, tequila, or rum, you can rest assured that you are drinking a completely gluten-free beverage. 

What about wine coolers and flavored wines?

Wine coolers and flavored wines often contain added ingredients, such as fruit juices or syrups, which may or may not be gluten-free. Moreover, wine coolers may contain malt liquor, which is made from barley.

As a result, wine coolers are not gluten-free and should be avoided by those with celiac disease. Consume them only if you are sure that they’re made with gluten-free ingredients.

Conclusion

Organically produced pure wine is gluten-free as it is made only of grapes, water, and yeast. However, it can come in contact with gluten during processing, fermentation, or aging. Thus, people with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity should be careful when choosing a wine. It is best to consider the tips mentioned above while purchasing wine.

References

References
1 Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau: TTB Ruling
2 ResearchGate: Use of wheat gluten as clarifying agent of musts and white wines
3 National Celiac Association: Is alcohol made from grain safe for people with celiac disease?

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