Thank goodness: Wine is a safe haven for those of use who wish to be wheat- and gluten-free.
We all know that single-ingredient foods that occur in nature are wheat- and gluten-free: cucumbers, olives, basil, cranberries, etc. It’s when humans get involved and add ingredients derived from wheat (as well as from barley, rye, and oats) to human-processed foods that gluten and other wheat components enter the picture.
The vast majority of wines are made without exposure to anything wheat or gluten. Rare exception: Because of a push to get away from animal-derived clarifying agents, such as gelatin derived from cows (due to bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease), winemakers have sought non-animal sources of clarifying agents.
Clarifying agents are used to make wines clearer and more appealing to the consumer. Clarification removes residual grape skin, seeds, or stem debris; dead yeast cells; and various proteins. Among the most popular clarifying agent choices are bentonite, potassium sorbate, and sodium benzoate.
However, some winemakers have lately turned to gluten or deamidated gluten for wine clarification. Thankfully, this still remains an uncommon practice. I believe it will become less common as more and more of us raise a stink about gluten exposure in ANY food.
The available scientific data on gluten content in wines in which gluten has been used for clarification suggest that no gluten makes its way to the finished product you pour. There are three studies I’m aware of that have examined whether gluten used in the clarification process make their way to the wine itself. Here is one such study. Obviously, if you consume a rare rogue wine that provokes a gluten response, don’t drink it again, then be sure to tell the winemaker about it. Also, come back here and tell us about it.
So the overwhelming majority of wines are wheat- and gluten-free: chardonnay, pinot grigio, viognier, vinho verde, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, garnacha, malbec, rioja . . . along with all the other wines produced from other varietals and blends. More so than any other class of alcoholic beverage, wines are therefore nearly entirely wheat- and gluten-free–even when you toast with wine!
Now, vodka is another story . . .