Removal of labels from bottles

Assuming soaking them off doesn't work, The Wine Society used to sell label removers - basically bits of very heavy duty stick tape that you put over the label, and then peeled off. You had to live with the clear plastic over the face of the label, of course.
 

Tom Cannavan

Administrator
Mark, in a sink full of very, very hot soapy water (a dash or two of Fairy Liquid) most will float off as the glue melts and you can dry them nicely. Some don't respond to this but you can by sheets of clear sticky stuff that you press over the entire lable and it lifts it off from the backing paper I believe. Having said that, I know Peter May of this parish is a world expert on label removal so may have more comprehensive advice.
 

Tom Cannavan

Administrator
Assuming soaking them off doesn't work, The Wine Society used to sell label removers - basically bits of very heavy duty stick tape that you put over the label, and then peeled off. You had to live with the clear plastic over the face of the label, of course.

Hoi, Stevenson, you were reading over my shoulder!
 
I put the bottle in the oven at about 120 degrees for 5 minutes or so. Remove from oven using oven gloves and label should peel off easily. My one failure has been Rauzan Segla where the label shrivelled up!
 
know Peter May of this parish is a world expert on label removal

Thank you Tom.

Since I doubt I can get you to buy my book*, Mark, I'll precis the techniques here FOC.:)

Ascertain what the fixture is.

Old wines used water soluble glues, and a brief soaking will see the label slide off.

In the past 30+ years self-adhesive labels have increasingly been used. Their adhesive will not dissolve in water. Their use can be identified by having multiple labels, on bottle, split labels, fancy shapes, any large production and or modern wine.

If bottled recently such labels can sometimes be peeled off as the fixative hasn't yet set.

Otherwise use heat to melt the fixative and carefully peel off. You can pour boiling water in the empty bottle; best have it in a metal sink, contact with the metal should stop the glass breaking but if it does then the water will be in the sink (it's never happened to me)

Or put empty bottle in a hot oven.

I've not done it, but some put bottle in microwave. Avoid metallic labels and screw topped bottles.

An avid label collector I knew used a razor blade to slice the label away.

Label removers, a sheet of self adhesive clear plastic, sticks to the label and if pulled carefully tears the label from its backing leaving you with a very thin label viewed through plastic. I've used these, I am not particularly happy with them as they aren't like a label.

Easiest of all is to use a camera to photo the label, if you just want to preserve details. Winery websites often have label images in their marketing section if you want to print with a colour printer.

*Marilyn Merlot and The Naked Grape: Odd Wines from Around the World.
 
Had a collection of 7 bottles from last weekend and this varying from German, Bordeau, Rhône, S.A. and Australia - all successfully removed using the boiling water method just now.
 
Easiest of all is to use a camera to photo the label, if you just want to preserve details.
If you want an image that looks like the original label - flat and rectangular, and with no information loss due to the bits round the side of the bottle - here are a couple of methods to try

 
The sticky label removers mentioned above are available from BBR and come with a folder to put them in. Haven't bought any for years, but they used to work out about £1 PB
 
I've used hot water and soap in the kitchen sink as well as a blade of a thin sharp knife. Now that I have started using razors I will now take that up. Old Bordeaux were the best, sometimes the label would be floating to the top before the sink was filled. Some of the newer self adhesive labels would peel off, especially if they were thick enough so that prying a corner off with a blade was all that was necessary to slowly and carefully peel it off. Then to deal with the still sticky residue on the back of the label simply apply it to tissue paper, remove the second ply, and trim the excess tissue from the edge of the label. If there is a back label one can then apply the sticky surface to the back of the front label.

It is the oven technique that is completely new to me and I look forward to trying it. Thanks.
 
I do exactly what Mark Wright does...fill the bottle with just boiled water and peel off (gently to avoid tearing). In many years of doing this I have had two occasions when the bottle cracked open, but it does make me fill them in the sink out of caution.

I'd say this fails to work for 10% of newish wines but for the majority of very old bottles. So attempt 2 is soak in sink and leave to dry on a piece of kitchen roll.

Failure there means I decide whether the bottle warrants sticking on top of the kitchen cupboards or not, though we had a new kitchen last year and I was asked to seriously reduce kept bottles.

Peeled labels now go in scrap books, previously having been used to wallpaper one of our three loos (was told one was enough!). I know of one person who has copied me and darn it, his labels are better because back in the 1990s I'd be drinking a few more cheapies (though nothing too embarrassing).

I do also take a photo of the label of every bottle I drink. I actually culled about three or four hundred recently because I found I had more that 2000.
 
A hairdryer works on many modern glues – just as it does on the dozens of paper labels invariably attached to wooden cases while in bond, some which arrive looking like they've been three times round the world without ever leaving a pallet in Tilbury.... ;)

vintage_black_sleather_suitcase_with_brown_leather_and_brass_detailing_andtravel_stickers_4_master.jpg
 
Meanwhile one can only hope that Rudy's forthcoming autobiography will include a chapter dedicated to arcane technical methods such as the Ponsot lift, the Roumier shuffle and the sticky Pétrus... :D
 
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Rudy Kurniawan has been mentioned as being a useful source of info. Before him there was another maestro, a German gent called Hardy Rodenstock. He was a dab hand apparently (literally) and he managed to fool both Michael Broadbent and Jancis Robinson at his very lavish dinners with his fraudulent wines which included wines "belonging to Thomas Jefferson".
 
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