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Wine Advisor Express:
How to remove a wine label

Reading yesterday's links to wine-label collecting Websites, several of you asked the obvious follow-up question: "How do you get those %#@*! labels OFF!?"

During the '90s, commercial wineries began using automated labeling machines with a "sticky-back" label glue that makes the labels very difficult to remove. Most modern labels now seem impervious to the old technique of soaking the bottle in a hot-water-and-ammonia bath.

Faced with these recalcitrant labels, what's a label collector to do?

Participants in our Wine Lovers' Discussion Groups suggest four basic approaches:

  • Increase the heat. First soak the bottle in the usual way; then attack it with a hair dryer, which may provide enough additional heat to soften the glue. Or try David Risch's technique: Put a little water in the empty bottle, then put in the microwave on its side - label side down - for several minutes on high power. Taking care to avoid burns, remove the bottle from the oven and pour out the water. You should then be able to gently peel off the label.

  • Use a commercial accessory: Squares of clear, sticky-back plastic that you place over the label, press down, then peel back, pulling off the label's surface to make a laminated item suitable for mounting in a scrapbook. Murray Almond recommends Wine Appeal, which is in Australia but sells internationally. Wine Enthusiast, sells a similar product. This is a fairly expensive option, ranging from about 50 cents to $1 per label, depending on how many you order.

  • Use a solvent. Readers have suggested such products as DIF (a commercial wallpaper-remover) and "Oops" (a latex-paint remover) to loosen label glue.

  • Take a picture. Shoot your label with a digital camera (preferably one with a "close-up" lens setting), or place the bottle label-side down on your scanner. The digital image may require a little manipulation in a computer photograph-editing program, but with practice these methods can yield excellent results.

  • Ask the winery. Finally, if you particularly treasure a wine, try the direct approach: Contact the winery and request an unused label.

If you have another technique that works, please let me know by E-mail to, and I'll share a selection of your comments in a future column.

Express Notes:
California Wine Club

The California Wine Club is celebrating California's Rolling Blackouts by "pulling the plug" on all case prices! In its last wine sale before the Holidays, California Wine Club is offering wines up to 67% OFF (45% OFF on Signature Series Wines) including half, full and mixed cases. Stocks are limited, and these wines will go fast. Order early by phone 1-800-777-4443, through the website at or E-mail at

This is Wine Advisor Express, daily edition of The 30 Second Wine Advisor, distributed Tuesdays through Fridays. For archives of previous articles, and to read more about wine, visit Wine Lovers' Page,

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Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2001
Copyright 2001 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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