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Dear Dr. Vinny,
Finding information on the gluten-free status of wines is difficult. Few wineries include information, and for people with celiac disease, it is important. What are the best gluten-free wines?
—Alan, Franklin, Mass.
I have some dear friends with celiac disease, and my heart goes out to them.
I think the reason you’re having trouble finding information about wine is because wine is categorized as a gluten-free product.
There are only two scenarios I know of in which gluten might make its way into wine (and neither has been shown to yield more than negligible trace amounts of gluten in the finished product). The first is if a wine barrel is sealed with wheat paste, and most wine barrels are now sealed with wax-based sealants. The second possibility is a gluten-rich fining agent, but again, winemakers have mostly moved on from these types of products onto other options. The very nature of fining agents is that they are removed from wine, so no more than trace amounts should remain.
As we’ve reported previously, wine with a lot of time in new oak has tested at about 5 or 10 parts per million of gluten, which is below the 20ppm threshold to be considered gluten-free, and just barely above the level where it’s detectable at all. Unfortunately, some people with celiac disease might still be sensitive to these amounts. There is reportedly considerably more gluten in some flavored wines and wine coolers, which people with gluten-sensitivities should avoid.
If you're concerned about wood-imparted gluten, look for wines fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks. As for fining agents, you can contact the winery and ask, or you can look for wines that haven't been fined at all. The good news is that most people with celiac disease are able to enjoy wine without gluten-related consequences, but you should consult your physician about including wine as part of a healthy lifestyle.
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