Late last year Calgary Chapter printed an interesting article on oaked spirits. I followed up-up with author to get the full scoop. Here are some excerpts from my email dialog with her:
“I have a number of friends who react violently to drinking wine and, it seems, wines that have been oaked (i.e. in the more expensive categories). When I inquired from a wine rep, he said without a doubt that it would be a concern, as would be a number of other products also oaked (some distilled liquors that are oaked post distillation, some balsamic vinegars, tabasco sauce). My jaw drops over the number of things that we really still know so little about.
When I started researching the oak barrel industry, seems that most if not all wine barrels are wheat flour sealed. There is some consideration being noted for using wax alternatively, but I am of the impression that it is not a common practice. Other things became a priority, so the wine interest took a back burner until yesterday, when I sent out some emails. I decided to start with the interior of BC and have had a response from one winery.
Blue Mountain Winery: The answer is yes there is a flour paste used to make the seal between the head of the barrel and the staves. To be honest I have no idea if there is any wheat gluten that makes it into the wine. I would assume that there is 0 for the following reasons. The flour paste is only used in the initial construction of the barrel (not a yearly application). The interior of the barrel is subject to steam pressure testing. Once they arrive at the winery they are rinsed with cold water and then we allow 50 L of hot water to be in contact with the head of the barrel (location that would have trace amount of flour paste) for a period of 2 hours. The barrels are drained and then fill with cold water. Drain this water and the barrels are ready for use. I would assume that any excess flour paste used in the sealing of the barrel would be washed away during this process. We have never tested the wines so I would have no idea what ppm level if any there is our wines.
I’ve been following some of the message board stuff from a group in the US that does a lot of random Elisa testing with the home kits. They have had some wines test positive for gluten I gather. They have also had a number of other very interesting products test positive. I hold a sceptics view about many of the chat groups, but there are some of their posts that certainly warrant consideration.”
Apparently national level is examining this further through the professional advisory board.
Use your own judgement. I too have had on and off issues with wine. I chalked this up to a possible issue with the sulphites added as a preservative. Now I’ll be more careful, focus on white organic wines.
Here are a few more sources you might want to investigate on this topic: