Is Wine Gluten-Free?

Have you ever thought about whether or not your wine is gluten-free? Why would you? Isn’t all wine gluten-free? After all, it’s made from grapes. But you might be surprised to learn that some winemakers use animal products to filter their wines, possibly making them not so gluten-free.

Our goal is to help you enjoy your sipping experience. Whether you’re following a gluten-free diet or simply curious about gluten-free options, there are a few ways to ensure your wine is safe!

First, let’s define what gluten is.

What is Gluten?

From bread to beauty products, gluten is in just about everything. But what is it exactly? 

Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. It’s a gummy, glue-like consistency that gives dough its pliability, allowing it to rise when baking. This sounds harmless, but for people with celiac disease or a gluten allergy, it can cause intense stomach discomfort. 

So how does gluten find its way into wine?

Is Wine Gluten Free? Infographic

How Much Gluten is in Wine?

According to Gluten-Free Watchdog, it was found that the gluten levels in wine are lower at just 5 to 10 parts per million. For reference, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers products that contain 20 parts per million or less to be gluten-free. This means the legal standard for products includes no more than 0.002% of gluten.

For the most part, the answer is “yes,” your wine is gluten-free, but there are a few caveats to consider.

Pouring glasses of red wine

Is Red Wine Gluten Free?

While wine is naturally gluten-free as it comes from grapes, red wine is the most at risk for cross-contamination. Most wines are fermented in barrels sealed with wheat, which allows trace amounts of gluten to creep in. Red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Zinfandel are susceptible as they spend more time aging in barrels on average.

After the fermentation, many red wines go through a fining or clarifying process. This is when a natural fining agent like egg or gelatin (both gluten-free) is added to the wine to collect unwanted sediment or tannins. 

Sometimes, wheat is used as a fining agent, increasing the potential for gluten in the wine. The good news is that in the United States, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau has approved even more gluten-free fining agents like pea protein and certain sugars. But the catch is that there is no way to tell whether the fining agent is gluten-free.

However, the risk is still incredibly low, as even these wines don’t typically absorb enough to trigger gluten sensitivities.

What about white wine? Is it safer or less safe when it comes to gluten?

Pouring glasses of white wine

Is White Wine Gluten Free?

Many white, sparkling, and even Rosé wines are aged in steel tanks and require little to no fining agents. This means the risk of gluten cross-contamination is much lower. However, remember that gluten can still enter the bottle through the cork, sediment, or cross-contamination at any time. Like with red wines, if a fining agent is used, you may not know if it’s gluten-free or not.

Here are a few extra ways to be sure once and for all that your wine is totally gluten-free.

How to Make Sure Your Wine is Gluten-Free

Thanks to a rise in openness and sustainability in the wine industry, you can quickly determine whether your wine is gluten-free with minimal research. Here are the top three ways to easily discover if the wine you’re sipping is gluten-free.

Check the Label

Gluten-free labeling is the most common way to identify if your wine is as it sounds. As mentioned, FDA laws require labels to be honest about their gluten status. Since many wines have super-low gluten content anyway, you're incredibly safe if the wine professes that it’s gluten-free.

For some alcoholic beverages that are created with grains that have gluten, the wine must be labeled with terms like “treated,” “processed,” or “crafted” to remove gluten. This can help you make an informed decision about whether the wine is worth trying.

Seek Out Gluten Free Wineries

Many trusted brands use sustainable farming practices or craft wine in small batches, like the Old World way. Natural wines, biodynamic wines, organic wines, and sulfite-free wines are all helpful for determining if your wine is gluten-free. Natural processes for winemaking might involve skipping the fining process, for example, which means no clarifying agents were used, which means there’s little to no chance of gluten! 

Avoid These Alcoholic Beverages With Gluten

Lastly, there are some absolute “no’s” when seeking gluten-free wines. Wine coolers or flavored wine beverages like wine cocktails often use dyes containing gluten, making them an undesirable choice for those looking to avoid gluten. 

While fizziness in wine coolers may be fun, barley malt is often used to create this effect, which isn’t great for a gluten-free diet. Dessert and fortified wines often have additives and flavorings containing gluten, so sadly, a Port may not be the best choice either.

Yes, Wine is Gluten Free, But Be Wary

While wine is naturally gluten-free because it is made from grapes and grape yeast, cross-contamination during fermentation or added dyes and barley are just a few examples of gluten creeping into your sipper. 

Thankfully, there are many organic and sustainable wine brands that are open about their gluten-free practices. Gluten-free labels are also trustworthy, so you can sip confidently with no more than a glance. 

For more information on all things wine, check out The Wine Blog.

Let Macy’s Wine Shop be your guide when seeking delicious gluten-free options.