A while ago, the national wine institute in Argentina officially certified a wine as “gluten-free”. What’s behind this? May conventional wine actually contain gluten?
In principle, wine is a suitable drink for people with gluten intolerance. While for instance beer contains barley or wheat malt, wine is naturally gluten-free because it is made from grapes. Most wines contain less than 20 ppm gluten which meets the definition of “gluten-free“ in the EU and the USA. However, there are two steps in winemaking in which wine may come into contact with gluten: ageing and fining.
- Especially red wines are often stored in wooden casks (barrique barrels) for ageing. The casks are usually sealed with tallow or paraffin wax. However, sealing with gluten-containing wheat paste is also possible, although this has become very uncommon. If at all, wheat paste is only used in small amounts.
- After fermentation, as part of the clarification and stabilization process, the wine is fined in order to remove unwanted particles that may cause haze. Besides bentonite, the most common fining agents are egg white, casein and gelatin. When producing vegan wine, vegetable protein such as pea protein can be used. Although the use of gluten-containing wheat protein is also permitted in the EU, it is very rarely employed.
Thus, most wines do not come into contact with gluten, and in case it actually does, the quantity is considered to be harmless to people with celiac disease. This is confirmed by an analysis by Tricia Thompson (link) and a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (link). However, mixed wine beverages with added color or flavoring may indeed contain unsafe levels of gluten; checking the label is recommended here. Consumers who wish to be extra safe may contact the winery for information – or choose wine from the “Barberis” winery which officially produces the first certified gluten-free wine in Argentina. All processes and raw materials are certified as gluten-free by the Argentinian wine institute INV (link).