If wine triggers your celiac or gluten allergy symptoms and you miss having wine with a fine meal, take heart – there’s hope. Wine is one of those areas we don’t tend to question when we think “gluten free”…that is, until you have a reaction. So I did some research into it, and here’s what I found out.
Generally speaking, gluten isn’t deliberately added to wines unless it’s one of those wheat-based wines, BUT (isn’t there always a “but”?) there are a few ways that gluten can sneak into wine and trigger your celiac or gluten reactions. Those things include:
~ cross-contamination during production
~ gluten in added colors
~ gluten in added flavors
~ the “fining”, or clarifying process
Believe it or not, the clarifying process can include the use of these allergens:
~ hydrolyzed wheat gluten isolate
~ pea protein isolate
~ milk protein (casein)
~ shellfish/fish glue
Your best bet to avoid this pitfall is to look for biodynamic wines, which also offer the added bonus of being organic. Instead of using the above allergens in the fining process, many biodynamic wineries instead use bentonite clay. Of course, you should still double-check the winery’s website to make sure it’s free of the allergens you react to because gluten and other allergens can leach into the wine from barrels that are sealed with wheat paste. So even though their fining process may not include allergens, they may not be able to guarantee allergen-free wines because of cross-contamination from the barrels. Look for wineries that use stainless steel barrels instead.
But keep in mind – while all biodynamic wines are organic, not all biodynamic wines are gluten free.
The process of making biodynamic wines (too complex to explain here, but you can read about it at Food and Wine) typically results in gluten-free and vegan wines that are produced on farms that use crop rotation, homeopathic sprays, and composting as a way to “heal the earth” and keep soil healthy for future crops. Biodynamic wines should have the Demeter certification mark you see to the right.
So the upshot is that while US regulations do not require wine labels to include allergen information like some other more allergy-conscious countries do, there are safer options for those of us who are more careful about what we put in our bodies.
Frey Organic Winery is one of the few (so far) wineries that produces biodynamic, gluten free wines. Check out their website for great information on biodynamic farming, the wine production process, and their selection of GF wines.