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Removing Labels

T o show labels on this site, I like to remove the label from the bottle and use a scanner. In recent years wineries have migrating to self-adhesive labels that are very difficult - sometimes impossible - to remove.
There are several ways I know of to remove a label.

  1. Soaking - including steaming
  2. Razoring
  3. Using a label remover
  4. Dry heat treatment
  5. Alternatives

When I cannot remove a label I take a photograph with a digital camera. Several labels on the site are taken with a camera and the label remains on the bottle.

Look carefully at, and feel, the label. If it is a paper label from the old world, try soaking. If it is plastic or other than a rectangle, or made from several parts - say large and small rectangles, then it is most likely self adhesive. Use heat or a label remover. If one method doesn't work, try another.

A couple of years ago I thought it would be worth while to perform a comparative test. Wine Appeal at www.wine.appeal.com kindly supplied me with a set of their Label Removers and my good friend Paul Mapplebeck agreed to wield his trusty razor on my behalf.
I had been struck with the colourful label on Gaiya Glaan - an inexpensive red blend from South Africa - and considered it a suitable candidate for this site. I had a bottle with dinner and after dinner opened the days mail, among which was Wine Appeals label removers. So I started the experiment right then - pausing only to empty the bottle!


I used to soak wine bottles in the sink, but that makes the sink unusable, wastes large amounts of water and the bottles float around, usually with their labels on the top and out of the water. So now I use a two-litre plastic soft drink bottle, with the top cut away. I fill the wine bottle with hot water, place it in the plastic bottle and fill that also with hot water. I usually leave this overnight. I was surprised that the Goiya Glaan label easily peeled off.
Result:- Success - the label easily peeled away from the bottle.
Conclusion:- Great. A success, and cost free.


I asked wine expert Paul Mapplebeck to use his razor to remove the label. Paul has been collecting wine labels for years. He has the label of every wine he has tasted.
Paul reported as follows. "I reckoned you had bowled me a googly. A high gloss label with a lot of gold in the design, fixed with water soluble gum - as this one is - can be very tricky to remove. It obviously should be soaked in cool water for about an hour and then stripped off with a razor blade but
  1. the gloss on the label usually dissolves leaving a very drab label
  2. the paper under the gold (silver also) doesn't soak up water and you usually tear the label at this point.

If it had a synthetic gum backing, removal would be easy - see below- but here I've patiently cut the label off with a razor blade. There is a danger to fingers and it puts crease marks in the labels, but the pristine gloss is preserved.
Of course, if a synthetic sticky is involved, put hot water in the bottle to warm it. Then empty out and put one inch of boiling water into the bottle and leave on its side with the label you want to remove on a dry surface. After about three minutes use a razor blade to strip off the label and mind outthat you don't get burned fingers on the other hand when studying the bottle. I put thick wollen gloves on.
Most labels can be removed either wet or dry but some labels like Ch d'Eyquem have gold in the designe that crackles up on removal - deliberately, to prevent attachement to a lesser quality bottle at car boot sales."
Result:- Success - the label was easily removed, although Paul says razoring often damages metallic designs.
Conclusion:- A success, and cost free. But I have a strong fear of playing with razor blades and will not use this method.

Label Removers

Wine Appeal Label Remover

The Wine Appeal label remover is a sheet of clear plastic with a very strong adhesive on one side. To use it, you remove the backing paper and place it over the label, rubbing it down on the label. When you peel off the label remover, the surface of the label is torn from its backing and comes stuck to the label remover, becoming laminated and protected.
Result:- The label remover adhesive was very strong, but while I followed the instructions to the letter, not all the label came away. Part of the right edge and a some places down the middle of the label remained.
Conclusion:- I was really disappointed - much of the label is missing - its not really a collectors item. I have also tried with other labels - see Graciano with similar tearing. Update Ignore the instructions; leave the sticky plastic on for much longer than suggested and smooth it down firmly with the back of a table spoon. With care the label should come off completely

Label-OFF Label Remover

Label-OFF label remover is also a sheet of clear plastic with a very strong adhesive on one side. I had more success with this than Wine Appeal. But perhaps, with hindsight, I could have done better with Wine Appeal with the knowledge I now have. During an extended period living in the US in 2000 I experimented with Label-OFF. I found that the sheet works best when rubbed onto the label with the back of a large spoon. And it helps to leave the sheet stuck on the label for several days so the glue forms a strong bond. I resort to Lable-OFF as a last resort and it has not failed me. But at around 9 USD for ten sheets it is expensive.
Result:- Reliable and effective very time.
Conclusion:- Reliable, but available only in the US and still rather expensive.

Label Library Label Remover

Label Library is available in the UK from Berry Bros and Rudd and The Wine Society. Its sheets come with a printed back label with spaces to record details of the wine. Idea is after removing the label you replace the back covering and keep it in the ring binder that forms part of the system. It seems incredibly expensive, and the set of 10 sheets of label removers retail at 10 GBP. But it is effective.
Result:- Reliable and effective .
Conclusion:- Very expensive.

Heat treatment

This is becoming increasingly succesful as more wineries move to self adhesive labels. Easiest and most succesful use of heat it to pour boiling water - it must be boiling - into the bottle, wait a few minutes and try peeling off the label by sliding a finger nail under a corner.

I have also removed a couple of self adhesive labels using using a hair dryer when I was in a hotel. And at home I have had some success by placing the bottle in a warm oven.

The problem with all these methods is the bottle gets so hot it is painful to hold.
Result:- Works with self adhesive labels, especially semi plastic labels.
Conclusion:- Dangerous handing hot bottle.


Digital Camera

Taking a photograph can result in a useful record of the label. I tried this with my digital camera. I place the bottle in a bright light, preferably direct sunlight, and focus on the label trying to avoid reflections. Often the image seen in the camera viewfinder looks a lot better than when viewed on the PC. Its then a matter of using a graphic program to crop away all but the label
Result:- Success - and the label picture can be used before drinkingthe wine.
Conclusion:- A success, although quality of the image is variable and as the label is stil on the bottle it curves.

Directly on a Scanner

You can get a usable picture by placing a bottle on a scanner and covering with a newspaper to cut out light.
Result:- Success - and the label picture can be used before drinkingthe wine.
Conclusion:- A success, although quality of the image is variable and as the label is stil on the bottle it curves.


Try peeling the label. If the wine is newly shipped the glue may not have had time to bond. I've had success a couple of times. It only works with plastic labels, as purely paper labels tear.
Conclusion:- Sometimes get a rare success, if its a plastic label its worth a try.

Peter May

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1 September 2002