Health Q&A: Wine and Celiac Disease

Nov 26, 2008

Q: I have celiac disease, so I need to stay on a gluten-free diet (no wheat, rye or barley). I have read that even though wine should be gluten-free by its nature, some could be contaminated with wheat, stemming from things such as storage in oak barrels sealed with a paste made from wheat or wheat flour being used as a fining agent. Is there any truth to this? And if so, which wines from which countries would be safest for me to drink?—Debbie, Chicago

A: It's true that wheat paste was at one time commonly used to seal wine barrels (wax-based alternatives are now the norm) and that wheat gluten can be used as a fining agent, but wine is technically classified as a gluten-free product.

Shauna James Ahern, author of the Gluten-Free Girl memoir and cookbook explains her own experiences with wine:

"There are so many mythologies surrounding gluten (I met a woman who has been gluten-free for 20 years who still refuses to drink Scotch or any distilled alcohols, because it was believed for decades that the grains survived the distillation process, even though science has shown that to not be true.). This one about gluten in wine keeps surviving too. I've never had a problem with wine. I drink a fair range of different wines. And I have not been able to find a single reliable source that points to wines I should avoid. When people are first gluten-free, they are especially sensitive. Alcohol of any kind might not be a great idea for the first month. Other than that, I believe your reader is safe. She'll need to make her own determination, as we all do. But if it's any help, I never hesitate when offered a great glass of wine."

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