Donald D. – OH
By far the best way to handle removing wine bottle labels from your wine bottles is to find someone else to do it. There’s nothing fun about it, and there’s no magical tricks that makes it effortless for the home winemaker. There’s some work involved. Having said this, there are some things you can do to make removing wine bottle labels a little less dreadful.
The number one thing you can do to make the process easier is to be selective about what used wine bottles you save. Not all wine bottle labels are the same. Some wine bottle labels are easier to remove than others.
The ideal wine bottle label to take off is a paper label, one where the paper has not been sealed or coated. These types of wine bottle labels will allow water to soak directly through them and to the glue. If given a little time the labels almost fall off once the water as dissolved the glue. These labels can be identified as being rough to the touch and flat in appearance – not glossy and slick.
Wine bottle labels that are made of a sealed paper will be smooth to the touch and have a shiny appearance. The glue will usually dissolve just as easily. The problem is getting the water to the glue. It will not soak as readily through a wine bottle label made from a sealed paper.
If you do find that this is the kind of label you are dealing with, you can get around this problem with a little extra effort. By taking a razor blade and liberally scoring the label before soaking, you can give the water access points to the glue. Run a bunch of cuts across the label in all directions. The more the better. Let the wine bottle labels soak overnight. You will then need to use a utility scraper to take the labels off.
Once you are done removing wine bottle labels you will still need to deal with some residual glue that is left on the wine bottle. One product I have used for this purpose for years is Goo Gone. Apply it to the glue, and rub it down with a rag.
Donald, I hope this gives you some better insight as how to go about removing wine bottle labels. As you can see there is some time and effort involved. It’s enough work that it’s not something you want to do the same day you plan on bottling your wine. This go much more smoothly if you are removing wine bottle lables ahead of time. That way all you’ll need to do is sanitize the wine bottles before bottling your wine.
As a final note, it doesn’t have to be this way! We always have new wine bottles that will save you all this trouble. In fact, we have quite a variety now – both cork finish and screw cap finish – in different colors and in different sizes. These would eliminate the need of removing labels from the wine bottles all together.
Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.