If you had asked me about a month ago if wine contained gluten I would have stated categorically “No”. Unfortunately I would have been wrong. It turns out that wines can contain gluten from two different sources.
If you’ve ever seen vinegar that’s a bit old, you may have noticed some clumps floating around that made it look less than appealing. Wine suffers the same problem and winemakers use a process called ‘fining’ or clarification to force particles to clump together so that they’ll be easier to remove – the result is a nice clear wine.
That sounds good until you discover that anything from clay to milk to egg to fish derivatives to WHEAT GLUTEN are used in this process. Manufacturers state that if there is any residue of the fining agent left it should be quite miniscule.
While that may be adequate for many people, there are those that react very intensely to ANY residue of gluten. For these people, typically those with celiac disease, it is a qualitative factor not a quantitative one that causes their reactions. In other words, it doesn’t matter if the amount is quite small, it can still cause their immune system to react and their health to be compromised.
Some countries are forcing wine manufacturers to disclose on their label the source of their fining agent, though I could find no indication that this was forthcoming in the US.
As a clinician I have often been ‘stumped’ by patients telling me that they reacted to wine the same way they reacted to gluten or dairy products. Certainly alcohol in anything more than small amounts (4-5 glasses per week) is not good for anyone, but these particular reactions were difficult to sort out. No longer! I have patients that are extremely sensitive and between a fining agent and the next point we are going to discuss, it certainly now makes sense why they were reacting as they did.
Wheat gluten can be used to help seal the wooden casks or barrels in which wine is aged. Theoretically this gluten could easily leach into the wine. Fortunately some wineries have moved away from wooden casks to stainless steel barrels for their aging process. It seems that finding out this data is easier than discovering the agent they use for fining.
If you are gluten intolerant and you know that you have trouble tolerating some wines, or if you continue to suffer ill health and you ingest wine, it would be a good idea to contact some wineries until you find a wine that you know is safe for you.
No discussion of wine would be complete without discussing the sulphite content since many people react to sulphites. All wines contain some amount of sulphites as a result of fermentation. These may be trace amounts and unnoticeable to many, but certainly not those with sensitivities.
Unfortunately sulphur dioxide is added to wine to prevent spoiling. This is used more so in white wine than in red, as red wine has higher levels of antioxidants naturally and therefore their presence prevents spoiling much more so than in white wine.
It is this antioxidant content that gives red wine its purported ‘health benefits’ and, in moderation, there is nothing wrong with some verified gluten-free red wine. But when it comes to quantities of health-giving antioxidants, certainly organic vegetables and fruits that are naturally gluten-free and sulphite-free are your best choice!
I hope you find this information helpful. Please share it with those you may know who tend to have reactions to gluten or wine.
If your health is not to the level you desire I am happy to help. You may call us for a free health analysis at 408-733-0400. Our destination clinic treats patients from across the country and internationally, so you do not need to live locally to receive treatment.
To your good health,
Dr Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN
Founder of HealthNOW MedicalCenter
Co-author of “The Gluten Effect”
Author of the e-Book: “Gluten Intolerance – What you don’t know may be killing you!”