Is Wine Gluten-Free?

Where Trace Gluten Can Sometimes Sneak In

Red wine

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

In This Article

In almost every case, wine is considered gluten-free to below the legal limit of fewer than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. That includes both sparkling wine and Champagne, which is a form of sparkling wine from France.

However, there are a few exceptions to this rule for wine. They include bottled wine coolers and wine with added coloring or flavoring, such as fruit-flavored dessert wines

Not all dessert wines and wine coolers contain gluten, but you can't count on them to always be gluten-free. Be sure to carefully read the label and, if possible, check with the company before drinking them.

Gluten Cross-Contamination

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, as there are a couple ways gluten can sneak into wine.

In a few cases, the culprit will be the use of wheat gluten as a fining or clarifying, agent for the wine. Since we often expect our wine to be clear of visible particles, winemakers turn to products called fining agents that give wine its polished finish.

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.

Though it's uncommon, it's not entirely impossible for a fining agent to contain gluten.

If this is the case, the winemaker does not have to disclose it on the label. But at the same time, wine containing trace amounts of gluten—even if it's produced without gluten ingredients—cannot be labeled as gluten-free, according to a policy by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. Wine fining agents such as egg whites and gelatin are inherently gluten-free.

Gluten in Wooden Casks

The culprit for trace gluten found in wine can often be found in the wheat paste used to seal the wooden wine casks or barrels used to age the wine. While not all winemakers age their vintages in oak casks or barrels (many opt for stainless steel tanks), not all modern winemakers seal their oak barrels with a flour paste, either.

However, if you react to a wine that has been aged in an oak cask or barrel, it's possible you are having a reaction to the flour paste. In those cases, the barrel's "croze," which is near the barrel head, was sealed with the paste.

Whether you're dealing with a gluten-containing fining agent or a wine that was aged in a wooden cask or barrel and sealed with a wheat paste, it only will add a minuscule amount of gluten to the finished wine. In fact, the range of gluten is likely 5 to 10 ppm or less. Now, this is a very small amount of gluten—so small that it takes the most sensitive gluten testing methods to detect.

It should also be noted that any food or beverage containing 10ppm or less can become officially certified gluten-free by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO).

Many (but not all) people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity will never experience symptoms at levels less than 10ppm. Very few who react to gluten will notice symptoms from the trace amounts of gluten in wine. Unless you know for certain that you react to certain wines, you shouldn't worry about it.

Wine Coolers and Gluten

Many people consider wine coolers, to be wine products. Therefore, they might not realize how many other ingredients these alcoholic products contain—and how likely they are to contain—gluten. The alcohol brands that produce wine coolers containing gluten in the form of barley malt include:

Because manufacturers of alcoholic beverages do not have to list ingredients on their labels, you should steer clear of bottled wine coolers. Hard cider is almost always naturally gluten-free and makes a good gluten-free alternative to wine coolers.

As an alternative to commercial wine coolers, you can make your own by mixing wine with ice, club soda, and a splash of gluten-free juice.

If You Have Symptoms

If regular wine gives you symptoms of gluten exposure, you first should experiment to make sure those symptoms are not from something else. Symptoms of gluten exposure can seem like the world's worst hangover, so make sure you're not mistaking an actual hangover for the kind induced by gluten.

In addition, some people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) find that alcohol, including wine, is a trigger for them.

It's also possible to react to the histamine in wine (particularly red wine) with symptoms that might mimic your gluten symptoms. You may have to do some experimenting or see a doctor to pinpoint the cause of your symptoms.

A Word From Verywell

If you have symptoms due to trace amounts of gluten in wine, you don't have to give up your wine completely. 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 that's commonly (but not always) used to seal wine casks made from wood.

Second, 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 disclosing their fining agents.

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

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Article Sources
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