Is Wine Gluten-Free?
Beer is generally off-limits on a gluten-free diet—but what about wine?!
Today, more than 3 million people in the United States follow a gluten-free diet. That's not because instances of celiac disease have suddenly skyrocketed (that number has actually stayed pretty flat over the past decade, according to research conducted by the Mayo Clinic). Rather, 72 percent of those people are actually considered PWAGS: people without celiac disease avoiding gluten. (Just sayin': Here's Why You Should Probably Reconsider Your Gluten-Free Diet Unless You Really Need It)
But there's also been a 25 percent increase in gallons of wine consumed over the past decade, so a lot of us are wondering: Does wine have gluten in it? After all, a girl's gotta indulge.
Good news: Almost all wine is gluten-free.
The reason why is simple: "Quite simply, there are no grains used in wine production," says Keith Wallace, founder of the Wine School of Philadelphia. "No grains, no gluten." ICYDK, gluten (a type of protein in grains) comes from wheat, rye, barley, or contaminated oats, triticale, and wheat varieties such as spelt, kamut, farro, durum, bulgur, and semolina, explains Stephanie Schiff, R.D.N., of Northwell Health Huntington Hospital. That's why beer-which is made from fermented grains, usually barley-is a no-go on a gluten-free diet. But since wine is made from grapes, and grapes are naturally gluten-free, you're in the clear, she says.
Before You Assume All Wine Is Gluten-Free...
That doesn't mean celiac sufferers, people with a gluten intolerance, or gluten-free dieters are totally in the clear, though.
There are a few exceptions to the rule: Bottled or canned wine coolers, cooking wines, and flavored wines (like dessert wines) may not be entirely gluten-free. "Cooking wines and wine coolers can be sweetened with any type of sugar, some of which (like maltose) are derived from grains," explains Wallace. "For that reason, they can have trace amounts of gluten." Same goes for flavored wines, which may include coloring or flavoring agents that contain gluten.
People who are seriously sensitive to gluten may even have a reaction to some regular wines. That's because "some winemakers may use wheat gluten as a clarifying, or fining, agent," says Schiff. Fining agents-which can be made from anything from clay to egg whites and crustacean shells-remove visible products from the wine to make it look clear (no one wants to drink a cloudy-looking wine, right?). And those agents could contain gluten. "It's rare but possible that your wine may have had a fining agent added to it," says Schiff, which is also why people with certain allergies need to be careful about drinking wine. (FYI: Here's the difference between and food allergy and intolerance.)
FYI: Winemakers don't have to disclose ingredients on the label. If you're concerned, your best move is to contact the producer of the wine or drink you like and ask about their product. (Some wine brands like FitVine Wine also specifically market themselves as being gluten-free.)
Wines can be labeled "gluten-free," though, as long as they aren't made with any gluten-containing grains and have less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten in compliance with the FDA's requirements, according to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
There's one other way gluten could possibly find its way into your wine: If the wooden casks used to age it were sealed with wheat paste. "In my 30 years of experience, I've never heard anyone using such a method," says Wallace. "I think it's exceedingly rare, if done at all." It's not often used at wineries, Wallace adds, for the simple reason that it isn't commercially available. "Most of the wine industry now uses non-gluten-based wax substitutes to seal their casks," says Schiff. That said, if you are sensitive to gluten and worried about where your wine is aged, you may want to ask for a wine aged in a stainless steel cask.
If even after taking all these precautions, you still encounter wine with gluten from one of these sources, it's likely to be a very tiny amount, says Schiff-"one that's usually too small to cause a reaction even in someone with celiac disease." (Phew.) Still, it always pays to tread carefully if you're dealing with an immune issue or allergy. (Related: Are the Sulfites In Wine Bad for You?)
"You'll need to read the ingredients list on your drink to see if it contains any grain products, and if you're sensitive to gluten, look for a 'certified gluten-free' label to be sure," says Schiff.
Bottom line: Most wines will be gluten-free, naturally, but if you're worried your vino will trigger a reaction, do some research on the brand's website or talk to the wine producer before you raise a glass.