Are you on a gluten-free diet but want to drink that tasty wine that has been aging in your cabinet? You can’t help but wonder, is red wine gluten-free?
Yes, it is. Both red and white wines are made from gluten-free grapes. Fermentation of the grapes does not involve gluten, but the fining, aging, and storage process may introduce gluten contaminants.
Read this article if you want to learn more about gluten-free winemaking and know the industry’s gluten free wine standards.
The Process of Making Gluten Free Wine
Crushing and Pressing
Wine is made from gluten-free fruits such as grapes, plums, and berries. The natural juice is extracted from the fruits through crushing and pressing. In making white wine, they separate the juice from the grape skins to avoid flavor transfer and color. The opposite is true for red wines.
Gluten-free yeast ferments the sugars in the juice to alcohol. For sparkling wines, the second fermentation is needed so it will appear bubbly. Sherry and other fortified wines make use of gluten-free distilled alcohol.
This process removes the cloudiness from the wine. This is done through fining, which uses a substance that binds to the unwanted elements filtered out. It is a potential source of gluten contamination because the winemaker might use a fining agent with gluten in it.
Aging and Storage
Wine may be aged in oak barrels, stainless steel tanks, or other containers before pouring it into bottles. Preservatives and stabilizing agents can be added, but they are usually gluten-free. However, processing and storage can be a source of gluten contamination for your supposed gluten free wine.
Possible Wine Fining Gluten Contamination
As mentioned earlier, fining removes unwanted components in the wine, such as plant compounds, protein, and yeast. This process is necessary so the wine will be clear and has a good taste and aroma. After the binding of fining agents and unwanted elements, they will settle at the bottom, making them easy to filter out.
Examples of gluten-free fining agents are milk protein, egg whites, and fish protein. There are also vegan-friendly fining agents, an example of which is plant casein.
Gluten is rarely utilized as a fining agent, but when used, it settles at the bottom as sediment when the wine is filtered. You could ask the winemaker if they used a fining agent that contains gluten.
Possible Wine Aging & Storage Gluten Contamination
During aging and storage, wine is held in different containers such as oak casks or barrels and stainless steel tanks. Oak barrels are sealed at their top using wheat paste, making it a possible source of gluten contamination. But this is highly unlikely.
The Gluten Free Watchdog Agency conducted a study on two wines aged in oak barrels sealed with wheat paste. They found out that the gluten concentrations from the two wines were less than 10 ppm, which does not exceed the standard set by FDA.
An alternative to wheat paste that wineries may use is paraffin wax. You may also ask the winery about their aging and storage conditions.
Industry Regulations for Gluten Free Wine
The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) regulates most wines in the US. However, wine varieties that have less than 7% alcohol are controlled by the FDA.
Gluten free wine labeling is only allowed by the TTB if the ingredients used do not have gluten. This also applies if the winemaker took proper precautions to avoid cross-contamination during winemaking. The FDA stated that the maximum amount of gluten allowed in wine to be still called “gluten free wine” is 20 ppm.
Studies conducted on wine after fining have gluten concentrations less than 20 ppm, so it still passed the criteria. This is also true for wines tested from oak barrels that were mentioned earlier. On the other hand, the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO) is more strict because it only allows the gluten free wine label if the concentration does not exceed 10 ppm.
Here is a video that talks about all the types of alcohol that are gluten free:
Are Any Wine Coolers Gluten-Free?
Initially, wine coolers are made from gluten-free ingredients such as wine, sugar, fruit juice, and carbonated beverages. However, they are reformulated to contain malt. Malt is created from barley, which is a grain that contains gluten.
That’s why people on a gluten-free diet should avoid these malt beverages or malt coolers. Examples of brands that have gluten in their wine coolers are:
- Boone’s Farm
- Seagram’s Escapes
- Bacardi (Silver malt variety)
The only examples of brands that have gluten free wine coolers are:
- Bartle & Jaymes - All drinks except their malt beverages.
- Boones - All drinks except their malt beverages.
Since alcoholic beverages do not contain an ingredient list, it’s better to avoid bottled wine coolers because they might have gluten in them. A great alternative to wine coolers is hard cider. You can also make your gluten free wine cooler.
The Purpose of Gluten-Free Diet
A gluten-free diet is necessary for people diagnosed with celiac disease and other conditions related to gluten consumption. Some choose to undergo this diet because it is claimed to improve health, increase energy, and helps in weight loss. But further research about these claims is needed.
This is the typical reason why a person needs to have a gluten-free diet and consume gluten free wine. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder wherein gluten triggers the immune system activity, damaging the small intestine’s lining. This condition also prevents the food’s absorption of nutrients.
The digestive symptoms of celiac disease for adults are:
- Weight loss
- Bloating and gas
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea and vomiting
Some symptoms are unrelated to the digestive system; these are:
- Softening of bone (osteomalacia)
- Loss of bone density (osteoporosis)
- Skin rash (dermatitis herpetiformis)
- Mouth ulcer
- Joint pain
- Hyposplenism or reduced functioning of the spleen
- Nervous system injury includes numbness, tingling in hands and feet, balance problems, and cognitive impairment.
Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity
This condition is also called gluten intolerance. Unlike celiac disease, this does not damage the small intestine. Research shows that the immune system is also involved in non-celiac gluten sensitivity, but its process needs further studies.
The symptoms of non-celiac gluten sensitivity are:
- Foggy brain
- Bloating and gas
- Abdominal pain
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Joint pain
- Skin Problems
Here is a video that shows the signs and symptoms of gluten intolerance:
This is also an autoimmune disorder wherein some nerve tissues are affected. Gluten Ataxia causes problems with voluntary muscle movement and muscle control.
Symptoms of gluten ataxia may differ but include:
- Trouble moving eyes
- Trouble speaking
- Trouble using legs, arms, hands, and fingers.
- Poor balance and/or coordination
- Tingling in extremities
- Gait problems
- Cerebellum damage (brain part that controls coordination)
This is similar to other food allergies. The immune system mistakes gluten or other proteins in wheat as an agent that can cause disease, similar to a bacterium or virus.
The immune system produces protein antibodies, which causes an immune system response that triggers the following symptoms:
- Nasal congestion
- Difficulty breathing
- Nausea or vomiting
- Itching or irritation, and swelling of the throat or mouth
- Hives, itchy rashes, or skin swelling
Is wine gluten-free? Yes, it is. But wine might be contaminated with gluten through fining, aging, and storage. However, as long as the gluten concentration falls into the specifications set by the regulating bodies, it is safe to consume.
Note that there are only a few gluten free wine coolers, so it’s better to avoid the brands mentioned to be safe. So, which gluten free red wines do you recommend? Let us know in the comments.