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How to Remove a Wine Label
Copyright 2001 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved. Originally printed August 29, 2001. For more information go to

Several of you asked the 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 Group 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 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.


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