These last fourteen GF years, I reveled in the knowledge that I still had the joy of wine and chocolate in my diet. Then, the whole controversy about the safety of oak aged wine surfaced and made me howl to the moon, “Noooooooo!”
And yet when I think back, every time my husband and I grilled some grass fed steak and opened a bottle of red wine to go with it, I had wondered why I got a gluten reaction about two am the following morning. I thought maybe the particular grass the beef grazed on was the culprit. Could it have been the wine? Either way, I can tell you it was frustrating to get a gluten reaction from my own meal preparation!
After some research calling actual coopers in the Napa area, I found out they do use wheat paste to seal the barrel lids to the staves and have been doing so for over 100 years. They all assured me that after the wheat paste dried, they thoroughly washed the inside of the barrels. However, none of the coopers using this practice would guarantee that the wine made in these barrels would be completely gluten free. Theoretically, there should be no wheat molecules left in the barrels after the cleaning. “Cool!” I thought. That next Saturday night I retested the theory by having the grass fed steak dinner with a great red wine. Again, the two am reaction woke me from a sound sleep. “Oh, no! Please don’t let this be true! Red wine is one of the joys left to me on this crazy diet!”
More research ensued. Some coopers admitted to spraying the whole inside of the barrel with wheat dust to help seal the staves. This allows the wine maker to use the barrels immediately without having to worry about leakage. The vintners, in this case, save time, because they don’t have to soak the barrels, which swells the wood and prevents leakage. “Okay, that would definitely be a problem for all gluten intolerants.”
When I talked to other gluten intolerants about their reaction to oak aged wine, some had reactions and some didn’t. For those not experiencing adverse reactions, I wondered if there was, in fact, some damage happening to their systems on such a minute level that their sensitivity was simply not picking it up. No answers to that one, yet.
Because I live in the SF Bay Area where wine tasting and wine drinking is nearly an art form and have grown up surrounded by the viticulture industry, the possibility of having to eliminate oak aged wine from my diet seemed particularly unbearable. Of course, I made it my mission to test and retest the steak dinner/red wine theory. Eventually, I had to concede defeat. My ultra sensitive body had a wild gluten reaction every single time I drank any oak aged wine. When I had the same dinner with no oaked wine…Voila, no two am misery!
This is my reward for being as faithful as possible to a GF diet for fourteen years. Over time, my body has gotten cleaner and purer. The result has been that I have become more and more sensitive to hidden glutens. Any molecule that accidentally enters my system gives me a reaction. “Great!”
Mystery solved? According to my research and my body’s reaction, oak aged wine is definitely and sadly a new forbidden item for me.
The good news…I am having fun exploring champagnes, unoaked chardonays, dry rieslings, and sauvignon blancs!