In the past several years, we have received more and more consumer inquiries asking if our wines are gluten free. While it may seem that a beverage made primarily with grapes and water would inherently be free of gluten, there are two points in the winemaking process in which gluten can potentially come in contact with the finished product:
1) If a gluten-based product is used as a fining or clarifying agent ie. enzymatically hydrolyzed wheat glutens (Note: this is a rare fining agent.)
2) If a wine is aged in an oak cask which used wheat paste as a sealing agent.
All Natural Merchants wines are produced without the use of gluten-based fining agents. The fining agents used by our winery partners are Bentonite Clay and pea protein.
Many of the wines we carry are aged in steel tanks and never come in contact with any oak barrels. See the list below of our steel tank-aged wines.
For those of our wines that are carefully aged in French or American oak barrels, we are working diligently with all our winery partners to try to ensure that the oak barrels used were not sealed with wheat paste. This is a work in progress, and we are aiming for a guaranty that 100% of our oak-aged wines are sealed in a gluten-free manner.
The wineries that produce the wines listed below on this page, have certificates or visual proof from their barrel suppliers that only gluten-free paste, or no paste at all, has been used to seal the oak barrels.
Wheat Paste is Rarely Used And Does Not Readily Contaminate
From Wine Spectator’s Q&A “Should I be worried about wine if I have a gluten allergy?”
“First of all, not all coopers use this paste anymore: ‘Wax substitutes have largely taken over because of ease of use and cleanliness,’ notes Phil Burton, owner of Barrel Builders in Napa…Upon receiving barrels, winemakers typically inspect the interior with a flashlight, and any exposed wheat paste would show ‘a greenish haze,’ according to Burton, which they would likely clean out before putting any wine in the barrel. In other words, the amount of this paste that ultimately penetrates the wine is probably negligible.”
To be certain, an independent test by a diagnostic company was sponsored by Tricia Thompson, MS, RD, the “Gluten Free Dietician” on two different wines aged in oak barrels which were sealed with wheat paste. Only a slight trace of gluten (5-10ppm) was found in the resulting wines. “Two bottles of wine aged in oak barrels sealed with a wheat flour paste were tested for gluten using both the sandwich and competitive R5 ELISA. All results were below the lower limit of quantification for gluten for these assays of 5 and 10 parts per million, respectively.”
Thompson says, “Wine has always been considered naturally gluten-free. Wine aged in oak barrels sealed with wheat paste appears to be gluten-free. Because the possibility of gluten in wine is an issue that consumers are slowly becoming aware of, it is important for vintners to be fully transparent about their practices.”
According to Katarina Mollo, Registered Dietician and Director of Education for the National Celiac Association “We ascribe to the FDA and TTB’s definition of gluten-free to be anything under 20ppm of gluten residue. We have also referred back to the diagnostic test conducted by Tricia Thompson that found less than 10ppm of gluten residue in any wine aged in an oak barrel. This is a very low amount and we consider all wines to be gluten free.”
Still this very slight trace of gluten could potentially be a concern for those who are Celiac or have an extreme reaction to gluten. For those who want to ensure there is absolutely no trace of gluten, our red and white wines aged only in stainless steel tanks are the safest choice.
Cooking, Canned Wine Drinks and Flavored Wines May Not be Gluten Free
“Cooking wines and Wine coolers (editor’s note: or canned wine cocktails) can be sweetened with any type of sugar, some of which (like maltose) are derived from grains,” explains Keith Wallace, founder of the Wine School of Philadelphia. “For that reason, they can have trace amounts of gluten.” Same goes for flavored wines, which may include coloring or flavoring agents that contain gluten.” Look for canned organic wines with no added flavors or colors.
FDA and TTB Definition of Gluten-Free Alcohol
According to the FDA, a food (or alcoholic beverage) must contain less than 20 ppm of gluten to be considered gluten-free and can be labeled as such. The TTB issued a final statement in February 2014 which remains in enforcement: “Under our updated policy, alcohol beverages that are made from ingredients that do not contain gluten (such as wines fermented from grapes or other fruit and distilled spirits distilled from materials other than gluten-containing grains) may continue to make “gluten-free” claims in the same way allowed in the new FDA regulations for inherently gluten-free products (https://www.ttb.gov/distilled-spirits/rulings 2014-2 Revised Interim Policy on Gluten Content Statements in the Labeling and Advertising of Wine, Distilled Spirits, and Malt Beverages).
“A wine fermented from grapes, or a vodka distilled from potatoes, may be labeled “gluten-free” only if the producer used good manufacturing practices, took adequate precautions to prevent cross-contact with gluten-containing grains during production, processing, storage or other handling practices.” TTB
Those who are Celiac must remain vigilant to ensure that all consumable products in which they come in contact are free of any gluten contamination. Though rare and at minute amounts, potential gluten sources can be found in wine. We promise to continue to do our best to readily identify all of our safely gluten-free wines and all gluten-free certificates and documents are available upon request. Our gluten-free wines can be found at fine retailers and restaurants nationwide.