Can Wine Be Gluten-Free?

Devon Kessler
February 3, 2023 | Features, Tasting Room | Devon Kessler

Can Wine Be Gluten-Free?

Wine corks in wine glass

A common question that we receive in our tasting room is around gluten in wine. Is it possible for wine to be gluten-free? The answer: yes. But what makes a wine certified gluten-free? Let’s take a look!

First, what is gluten? Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley that people with celiac disease or an intolerance to gluten must be careful to avoid. The Federal Drug and Food Administration (FDA) says about 3 million people in the United States have celiac disease.

According to Beyond Celiac, the varieties of wines that are naturally gluten-free include Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Chianti, Malbec, Merlot, Moscato, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, Port, Riesling, Rosé, Sauvignon Blanc, Sherry, and Zinfandel. If you are a sparkling wine fan and need to be gluten-free, bubbly like Champagne and Prosecco are the way to go.

Is It Considered Gluten-Free?

Wine is considered to be gluten-free if the gluten levels are below the legal limit of fewer than 20 ppm (parts per million). But, there are a few exceptions when it comes to this rule. These include bottled wine coolers and wine with added coloring of flavoring, such as fruit-flavored dessert wines. 

According to the FDA, any foods that carry the label “gluten-free,” “no gluten,” “free of gluten,” or “without gluten” must contain less than 20 ppm of gluten. This is the lowest threshold that can be reliably detected in foods using scientifically validated analytical methods. Prior to 2013, there were no U.S. standards or definitions for the food industry when it comes to labeling something as “gluten-free.”

Experts explain that the only way you can be sure a wine is gluten-free is to look for the words “gluten-free” or a gluten-free certification mark on the label. Although, most wine companies have not sought out third-party gluten-free certification. Due to the Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) changing their rulings in late 2020, there may be a higher chance you will see more wines with “gluten-free” on the labels.

Cross Contamination

As we know, all wine is made predominantly from grapes - which are naturally gluten-free. While the fermentation process doesn’t include any gluten, cross contamination can happen after the fermentation when substances are added to help clarify the wine. 

If gluten or a product containing gluten is used as a fining agent, the gluten can remain behind in the bottle. There are studies that suggest that even if there is gluten in the bottle, it is much lower than the 20 ppm allowed to still be labeled gluten-free, says researchers.

When it comes to wines aging in oak barrels sealed with wheat paste, there could be an issue. Gluten-Free Watchdog says some studies show the amount of gluten found in these wines was “below the lower limit of quantification for gluten found in these 5 and 10 parts per million.” Wines aged in these types of barrels can still be considered gluten-free.

Health Issues

If you have a sensitivity to gluten and start to feel unwell when drinking wine, there might be other reasons other than gluten contamination:

  • Expanding blood vessels. Drinking alcohol causes blood vessels to expand, which stretches the nerve fibers wrapped around them. When this happens in your brain, it can trigger headaches;
  • Inflammation. Alcohol may increase gut inflammation, particularly in people with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Some people with celiac disease also have IBD;
  • Histamine and tyramine. Some people are sensitive to these byproducts of fermentation, which may trigger headaches and digestive upset. Red wine may contain up to 200 times more histamine than white wine;
  • Tannins. Wine contains certain plant compounds, including tannins and other flavonoids, that may trigger headaches. Red wine typically contains more than 20 times the flavonoids of white wine;
  • Sulfites. These may be added as a preservative to both red and white wines but must be declared on the label if totaling 10 ppm or more. Sulfites are compounds that can trigger asthma and possibly headaches; or
  • Allergens. Some fining agents come from allergens like milk, eggs, and fish. It’s unlikely that enough remains to cause a reaction, but processing varies. Wine labels don’t have to disclose allergens like foods do.

If you have a serious gluten sensitivity, we do advise that you consult your physician before consuming specific drinks and foods. If you believe you are mildly affected by gluten, you will have to determine if the potential for a minimal trace of gluten will adversely affect you. This blog is meant to be informative for those inquiring about gluten being used at some point in the winemaking process.

Our hard ciders are an alternative gluten-free option. Give our Peach or Cinnamon Cider a try! We would love to tell you more about our winemaking process during your visit.




Commenting has been turned off.

Join our mailing list and get the latest Cork News, receive special promotions, and learn about upcoming events at Good Harbor Vineyards!