In gluten-free spheres, alcohol seems to be disputed territory. My doctor and the nutritionist I saw when first diagnosed both told me different things: one indicated that grain alcohol (except for malts and beers) would be ok and the other said never to touch the stuff.
Alcohol is tricky not just because of the difference in medical opinion around the subject, but also because of the manufacturing guidelines around alcohol: in many cases manufacturers do not clearly disclose ingredients or their processes. I often find myself standing in the aisle of the local packie trying to figure out what is in that vodka: is it potato-based vodka or wheat-based vodka? How is orange liquor made and will it make me sick?
I have done some research on the subject, emailing companies and compiling lists. Here is what I have found. This is the kind of thing that is really all about personal thresholds. Some celiacs can have wheat-grain vodka and be fine and others…not so much.
Since this is going to take a while, I am going to post in parts.
Wine is easy: it’s gluten-free. So are its friends, champagne and prosecco.
Exceptions: Sparkling wine coolers, ala Bartles & Jaymes, the 1980’s drink sensation.
Make sure you check the label or marketing information for indicators that barley is used
in the manufacturing process, generally, “malt”.
If you are looking for a nice local winery, I would visit the Nashoba Winery. They have a variety of wines and hard liquors that they make on site with local fruits.
Hard Apple Cider:
Hard ciders are the apple / fruit version of beer. Generally, ciders are gluten-free: made from fermented apples without barley (malt) or wheat. Note of caution: if you stay away from yeast, do check with the manufacturer; some brands do use yeast.
Even though I have yet to find an apple or pear cider that has gluten, still check the label for indications that the cider may be malted.
Other great options, which I have confirmed are gluten-free:
Wyder’s Cider – which makes a few fruit ciders – all g/f
The nice folks at Green Mountain Beverage, brewers of Woodchuck & Wyder’s, which also imports Strongbow informed me that they can certify that Woodchuck & Wyder’s, as they are made in a gluten-free facility in Vermont. Strongbow is made in the UK. While the recipe does not contain gluten and they perform routine checks, Green Mountain cannot make promises about the production facility in the UK.