How to Remove Wine Labels

How to Remove Wine Labels

Reusing wine bottles is the perfect way to save some money when making your own wine. The problem is how do you remove the labels? I’ve found there are mainly three types of labels, paper, plastic, and plastic coated paper. Paper labels are easy as they’ll come off after only a few minutes in water. Plastic labels peel off but leave a mess (more on that below). The toughest labels to remove are the plastic coated paper labels. They don’t peel off and water can’t penetrate the plastic so you can’t soak it off. After a bit of practice, however, I stumbled upon a method that works really well for paper and plastic coated paper labels. Check out this video to see how I do it. I’ve got a few more tips and safety tips for you after the video so be sure to check out the rest of the post too. Here’s a brief summary of how to remove wine labels made of paper and plastic coated paper: 1. Using a utility knife carefully score the label vertically and horizontally. 2. Soak the bottle in a tub of water for 24 hours. Hint: it helps to put a little water in the wine bottle so that it doesn’t float. This way you can stand them up in the tub. 3. After soaking take  a window scraping blade and scrape the label off. Be sure to push the blade down the bottle away from you. Do this on a table and not your leg. 4. With all of the paper removed scrub off the glue. The glue can be particularly challenging to remove. One way to speed this process along is to use a cleaner such as Goo Gone. HOWEVER, do not allow any bit of this to get inside the bottle! It’s best to spray a rag away from the bottles and then use the rag to wipe down the bottles. Goo Gone in your wine isn’t going to taste good. After using any cleaners be sure to thoroughly wash the outside of the bottle. If you have to remove wine labels from a lot of bottles be sure to wash the rag out once in a while. While the goo removers do break down the glue it has to go somewhere. Your rag soaks it up and after ten labels or so you’ll just be spreading glue around instead of removing it. Removing Plastic Labels There are some labels that don’t have any paper in them. They’re thin sheets of plastic. I’ve found that these labels leave a real mess of glue behind. Your best bet is to peel the label by hand and then either scrape off the glue or use Goo Gone. A Word on Safety It’s not hard to remove wine labels but please do be careful with those utility knives and window scrapers. I don’t want to be a nag but I’d rather see you bottling wine than getting stitches in the hospital. So just two safety points here. 1. Always use a brand new blade. It’s much better to get cut by a brand...

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The Anatomy of a Grape

The Anatomy of a Grape

Knowing and understanding grapes is absolutely essential to making good wine. After all these little berries are what it all starts with right? By their very nature grapes are the perfect winemaking fruit. No other fruit contains the perfect amounts of sugar, acidity, and phenolic compounds to create such an amazing beverage. Any other fruit requires additional sugar or other ingredients to even produce alcohol. Let’s get to know our little friend a little bit better. Shall we? Physical Components of the Grape The Skin At only six to ten cells thick you wouldn’t think there’s much to the skin of a grape. However, this membrane contains many key elements for red wines. Less so for white wines as the juice spends little time in contact with the skins. The outer surface of the skin is the cuticle, a wax like covering that waterproofs the berry. Protecting it from outside influences. Within the thin skin are a ton of components including aromatic substances, potassium, and phenolic compounds. Phenolic compounds refer to a group of compounds, however, there are two very important ones that need to be explored. The first are anthocyanins. These are pigment compounds that give the grape its color and in turn gives red wine its color. As wine ages these anthocyanins combine with other phenolic compounds which serves to stabilize the color of the wine. The second phenolic compound of interest are tannins. Also present in the seeds tannins give wine an astringent and bitter taste. Tannins also combine over time and alter the taste and mouth feel of a wine. Red wines in particular get most of their flavor and spunk from the skins. Merely pressing red grapes and fermenting the juice results in what the French call “Blanc de Noir” meaning white wine from red grapes, or literally white from black. The Pulp The bulk of the grape is made up of the pulp beneath the skin. This is where the grape juice comes from. Vacuoles contain the juice and when broken release the “free run” juice. As you can see in the diagram the pulp contains many compounds of its own including: sugar water aromas potassium tartaric acid malic acid In white wine making the pulp provides the bulk of the flavor and acidity. Red wines get their flavor first from the skins but also from the pulp. Seeds Moving inward we come to the seeds. These are large caches of tannins. So much so that as winemakers we must be careful not to crush the seeds during the pressing of the grapes. By crushing the seeds, and stray stems, the tannins are overdone. If this happens your wine will need much more time in the bottle to become palatable. Chemicals Within The Grape The chemical makeup of a grape is quite diverse and complex. We’ll just hit the major components here. Sugars The sugars within the grape are what the yeast consume to produce the alcohol in wine, as you already know. What we refer to as “sugar” in a grape is actually a combination of several different kinds of sugar. Primarily there is...

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First Impressions of My Shiraz and the Mistakes I Made

You’re really supposed to wait six months after bottling a red wine before you taste it…but I couldn’t resist! When I bottled my Shiraz I wound up with 29 full bottles and about a half bottle left over. Needless to say I couldn’t store the half bottle for any length of time without oxidizing it. So, the only thing left to do was drink it! I wanted to taste the wine as bottled for two reasons. First, I wanted to know what it tastes like in the beginning so that I have something to compare it to as it ages. Second, I wanted to see if I made any mistakes that I could learn from. Here’s what I found when I tasted my wine. It’s Definitely a Young Wine I had never tasted a wine quite this young before and wasn’t sure what to expect. However, after only a few sips it became evident that this was indeed a young wine. For starters the tannins are a bit gritty. They haven’t had time to string together and form longer molecules. Longer tannin molecules are much smoother than what I was experiencing. Additionally there was a distinct green taste to the wine. Almost as if I’d bitten into a grape stem. This will go away as the wine matures. Looking at it in the glass it has a color to it. Most young wines have a purple tint to them that eventually fades to red. The fact that mine is red really doesn’t tell me much being that it’s from a kit. I think the color would be more telling had I used fresh grapes. However, the fact that it’s not brown or orange tells me the wine is basically in good shape. My Mistakes Despite the lack of aging there were three mistakes that became self evident in my half bottle of wine. While it is very disappointing to find so many mistakes this is how a winemaker learns and grows. 1. I didn’t get all of the carbon dioxide out during degassing. After twenty minutes with the wine whip I thought I’d gotten all of the carbon dioxide out. However, upon tasting the final product I could clearly detect some bubbles on my tongue. Just to make sure I wasn’t mistaking high acidity for bubbles I gave a sample of wine a shake in my test jar and was greeted with a burst of carbon dioxide when I removed my hand. Proof that there is still gas suspended in there. Next time I need to be much more patient and diligent with the degassing tools. Also, had I kept the wine at the proper temperature during fermentation and clarification I wouldn’t have had so much trouble getting the carbon dioxide out. 2. There is sediment in my bottled wine. During bottling there were a couple times when I started to lose my siphon. In an act of desperation I plunged the racking cane to the bottom of the carboy so that it would stop taking in air. By doing this I wound up sucking up some of the lees. Because Shiraz is so dark...

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Bottling Your Kit Wine

The final step in the wine making process is to bottle your wine and insert a cork. You’re ready for this step once you wine has been stabilized and is clear. If your wine has not been properly clarified or degassed you shouldn’t move on to bottling.  Sediment and trapped carbon dioxide cannot leave the bottle and will remain suspended in the wine until you open it. So be completely sure you’re ready for this step. In this video you’ll see the steps involved to take wine from a carboy to the bottle including an extra step required for long term bottle aging. That’s it! This concludes the first series on kit winemaking! Please let me know your thoughts or questions in the comments. I’m here to...

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Degassing and Clarifying Your Wine

Degassing and Clarifying Your Wine

After a seemingly eternal fourteen days since racking it’s time to degas and add a clarifying agent to the kit wine. Degassing is a brut force method of removing suspended carbon dioxide. I purchased a Fermtech Wine Whip (affiliate link) to help with this process and it saved me big time. More on that later. Check out this video on degassing and adding a stabilizing agent to the wine. This is the final step before bottling. If this step isn’t done correctly your wine won’t clear and you won’t be able to move onto bottling! During fermentation and the fourteen days after racking my Shiraz was stored below the recommended temperature range. This prolongs fermentation but also requires much more time to degas. All in all I spent nearly twenty minutes with the degassing the wine with the Wine Whip (affiliate link). Twenty minutes may not sound like much but when you’re talking about stirring your wine with a power drill on full blast for twenty minutes it’s a pretty big deal. Without this tool degassing would have taken days. There are several different style tools for this job and you don’t have to get the Wine Whip specifically, but do yourself a favor and get a degassing tool. You won’t regret it. After adding the final additives to stop fermentation and degassing you shouldn’t see any action in your airlock. At this point it’s merely acting as a seal to protect your wine. Up next, bottling your...

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