If you’re following a strict gluten-free diet, you likely already know the foods to avoid triggering any unpleasant symptoms. That leaves many people asking: is wine gluten-free? Wine is considered a safe beverage to consume… with some considerations. Here’s what to know.
Gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and blends of those grains, is typically not found in any measurable quantity in wine. However, in rare cases, trace amounts can sneak in due to cross-contamination.
What is gluten-free?
The standard for gluten-free food and beverages is set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) at 20 parts per million (ppm), or 0.002%.
This measurement is used as a guideline by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau and Gluten Free Watchdog. This organization seeks to boost brand transparency around the cross-contamination of gluten in the marketplace.
Is wine safe for gluten sensitivity? Wine is generally considered safe for those with gluten sensitivity. Those with a more severe gluten allergy or celiac disease may still feel the effects of gluten if cross-contamination occurs during aging or storage. These individuals will want to read wine labeling carefully or check with the vintners at a winery.
Ingredients & Process
Most wines, including sparkling wine and champagne, are made from grapes, a naturally gluten-free ingredient.
Is there any gluten in wine? There is no gluten in wine grapes or in the fermentation process. If you’re very sensitive to gluten, though, you’ll still want to do your research around how your chosen wine brand is processed — some fining agents and ways of aging and storing the wine can contain contaminants.
You’ll want to be especially careful with any wines considered dessert wines, wine coolers, and even what you’re putting in your mocktails. Flavorings and other additives to make those styles sweeter can contain trace amounts of gluten.
Fining Wine: Possible Contaminants
Even a traditional wine can have some cross-contaminants that may cause trouble for those with gluten intolerance or people watching their gluten proteins. Cross-contamination can happen during the fining process.
Fining is where winemakers remove anything they don’t want in the wine to make it clear and more palatable. They’re looking for any visible particles they don’t want floating around in the end result.
Usually, fining is done using gluten-free methods. Egg whites, gelatin, bentonite clay, and fish proteins are all common ingredients in the fining process.
Wine lovers with other allergies should be just as cautious when choosing their wines as those with gluten sensitivities. Trace amounts of fish proteins for someone with a seafood allergy could prove problematic. However, most high-quality wines are not using these ingredients.
In rare cases, winemakers may use agents that contain gluten, even gluten itself, in their fining process. The end result is still considered gluten-free.
Aging And Storing Wine: Possible Contaminants
Trace contaminants in the winemaking process may come from the way wine is aged and stored.
Some winemakers may still use a wheat paste or flour paste to seal their wine, particularly if the wine is aged in oak barrels or casks. This wouldn’t apply to winemakers using stainless steel tanks for their wine aging and storage, a method used by many winemakers today.
That all said, it’s still unlikely that even someone with celiac disease would react to those trace levels of gluten used in this kind of storage (though not impossible).
It’s also a process that is exceedingly rare as winemakers respond to consumers worried about their gluten consumption. More brands are adopting substitutes like paraffin wax instead.
Even with flour paste seals, however, the levels are likely between 5 to 10 ppm. That is well below what the FDA would consider to be gluten-free.
Gluten Free Watchdog agrees, pointing to the fact that through fermentation, those trace amounts of gluten are further broken down in the winemaking process.
Whether you’re drinking a traditional red wine or your favorite white wines, it’s unlikely that you’ll have an issue with any effects of gluten.
The same can’t be said about wine-style products, though.
Wine coolers: know what’s inside.
We’ve determined many wines are safe to drink for those with a gluten sensitivity. However, there are alcoholic beverages out there that are marketed as wine products that may not be as safe.
Any wine products with added flavoring, color, or other additives may contain levels of gluten significant enough to cause problems for those with a sensitivity.
That includes wine coolers, flavored wines, even some dessert wines. It’s important to check labels carefully before consuming any wine product that’s not the usual bottle of wine.
Some wine coolers contain barley malt, for example, an ingredient that by definition contains gluten. That means they’re more in the malt beverages category than wine.
Note: Anything with “malt” in the name likely contains gluten and should be avoided if you’re watching your gluten content.
Celiac Disease And Wine
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that causes damage in the small intestine when its sufferers ingest gluten.
The primary treatment for celiac disease is a strict diet of no gluten. That means no bread and no beer for starters, including non-alcoholic beer in most cases. There are gluten-free beers out there as well. Like wines and other drinks, you just need to read labels.
Even trace amounts of gluten from cross-contaminants can cause damage to the small intestine in people with celiac disease. Any intestinal damage can mean your body isn’t absorbing nutrients as it should, leading to problems down the line.
Untreated celiac disease has been linked to anemia, lactose intolerance, and even other autoimmune disorders caused by mineral and vitamin deficiencies.
Can you drink wine if you are gluten intolerant? Generally, you can drink wine if you are gluten intolerant. Even those with celiac disease are still able to enjoy wine that is specifically labeled gluten-free. If you don’t see that gluten-free label, it’s important to consider the potential for contaminants from storing and aging the wine.
To get to the bottom of any possible cross-contaminants, use the checklist below.
The Checklist For Gluten-Free Wine
Maybe you’re someone who needs to watch their gluten intake. Perhaps you're just looking to cut gluten out of your diet for weight loss or other purposes. Regardless, you know that most wines don’t explicitly state their gluten-free status.
There are a few key questions to ask if you’re concerned about what you’re drinking:
- Does the label say the beverage is gluten-free? This one sounds simple, but it should be your first step in determining whether what you’re drinking is safe for you. This is particularly important with products like wine coolers.
- Is this wine tank-fermented? That would mean the wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks rather than oak barrels. While wheat gluten is rare in wine sealing these days, this is where it could appear if it was used.
- What does this wine brand use to filter their wine? If you’re worried about any other allergens on top of gluten sensitivity, this question is even more critical.
- Have you had this wine before? If you’ve found a wine you enjoyed with no adverse effects after indulging, it may be best to stick with that wine.
If you’re drinking what you believe to be gluten-free wine and gluten-free alcohol and still having issues, it may be another facet of the wine.
The problem could be sulfites in the wine could be causing stomach distress or high levels of tannins triggering a headache. Another consideration is products used in the fining process may be on your list of food allergies.
What are some gluten-free wines? Gluten-free wine brands that explicitly state they are gluten-free include Radius, Inkarri Wines, Surely, and Cupcake Vineyards. If a wine isn’t labeled as gluten-free, that doesn’t mean they’re unsafe, though. Most wines are naturally gluten-free.
The bottom line: It’s essential to know what you’re consuming, even if you’ve never had any issues with wine before. Not all wines are created equal, and some adults develop gluten sensitivities later in life.
That’s why we recommend high-quality wines without potential health hazards like gluten or alcohol.
Gluten-free wine with great taste.
There are wines out there known for being completely gluten-free, with explicit labels that state their gluten-free status.