Siduri Touts Gluten-Free Wines
California winery tests wines post-bottling to verify
Lee already has bottled some 8,000 cases of three different 2012 Pinot Noirs, with another 8,000 cases of vineyard-designates yet to come. The Santa Rosa winery, which sells 60% of its production direct to consumer, charges an average of $36 per bottle.
Lee said a gluten-intolerant staff member inspired him to check the gluten levels in his wines. Most modern wines contain negligible levels of gluten, which might remain in trace levels after fining or from the wheat-flour paste traditionally used to seal some oak barrels.
The latter possible method of contamination prompted Lee to test his wines when were are out of the barrel and into the bottle, a process he outsources to ETS Laboratories, at a cost of “several thousand dollars,” he said.
Lee asked barrel suppliers about possible gluten contamination and, he said, “They just didn’t know. I’m a skeptic. When someone is trying to sell you something and claims never to have had a problem, I like to see for myself.”
While investigating, he learned that the wheat-flour paste seals are also prohibited in the production of kosher wines. Jeff Morgan, co-owner/winemaker at Napa’s Covenant Wines, said the paste remains something of a “gray area” for kosher winemakers like himself.
“When I started it wasn’t an issue,” he told Wines & Vines. “Then the rabbis thought about it.” Morgan now requests cooperages to seal barrels for Covenant’s 1,500-case production with Enoplastico, a common synthetic product.
Sensitive to TTB label approval requirements and bottling timelines, Lee chose to make the gluten testing results available only on Siduri’s website, which consumers can access by scanning the QR (quick response) codes on its wine labels, and providing the most current and accurate information.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently published its first-ever standard for labeling a food product as “gluten-free,” setting the threshold at less than 20 parts per million.
Gluten-free wine listings are almost non-existent online, with the exception of Frey Vineyards, the 80,000-case Redwood Valley, Calif., operation that pioneered organic and Biodynamic winemaking in Mendocino County. Even the exhaustive “gluten-free products” listing for Whole Foods in Santa Rosa, Calif., does not include a “gluten-free wine” section.
In the past decade or so, gluten-intolerance has become a well publicized issue. A report published by the Mayo Clinic states: “Celiac disease is an immune reaction to eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. If you have celiac disease, eating gluten triggers an immune response in your small intestine. Over time, this reaction produces inflammation that damages the small intestine's lining and prevents absorption of some nutrients (malabsorption).
“The intestinal damage can cause weight loss, bloating and sometimes diarrhea. Eventually, your brain, nervous system, bones, liver and other organs can be deprived of vital nourishment.
“In children, malabsorption can affect growth and development. The intestinal irritation can cause stomach pain, especially after eating. There's no cure for celiac disease—but following a strict gluten-free diet can help manage symptoms and promote intestinal healing.”
According to About.com, “Three organizations—the Gluten Intolerance Group’s Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO), the Celiac Sprue Association (CSA) and the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA)—currently certify products and companies as gluten-free.
“The programs have different standards and tests for different levels of trace gluten in the foods they certify. The Gluten-Free Certification Organization, for example, tests foods to make sure they contain less than 10 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. Gluten Intolerance Group executive director Cynthia Kupper reports that most products test lower than that, and some have no detectable gluten in them.
“The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness program also tests foods to 10ppm. The Celiac Sprue Association, meanwhile, requires foods to have less than 5ppm, a more stringent standard (less gluten is better, obviously), and also requires foods to be free of oats (even gluten-free oats). In comparison, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s gluten-free label rules call for foods to contain less than 20ppm of gluten.
The website Statistic Brain cites 2013 statistics from the National Institute of Health: Between 5% and 10% of all people may suffer from a gluten sensitivity of some form; One out of every 133 Americans (about 3 million people) have Celiac Disease; 97% of Americans estimated to have Celiac Disease are not diagnosed. The U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that the gl uten-free industries’ revenues will reach $1.9 billion by 2012. Gluten-free foods are, on average, 242% more expensive then their non-GF counterparts; there are currently no drugs available to treat Celiac Disease.
The site adds a couple of statistics that may motivate the wine industry to adopt and publicize its efforts to provide gluten-free products to consumers:
“People with CD dine out 80% less than they used to before diagnosis and believe less than 10% of eating establishments have a ‘very good’ or ‘good’ understanding of GF diets.”