Many people collect labels as a record of the wines they've enjoyed throughout the years. Others do so for the artistry of the labels, or for the history and rarity of the wines. No matter the reason, there are several ways to remove wine labels from bottles for collecting purposes, including soaking, peeling, using commercial label removers and steaming. Though each method has its advantages, steaming allows labels to remain intact and undistorted, and resists the "laminated" look of commercial remover tapes.
Paper and Adhesives
Though steaming is a good way to remove wine labels, it's not going to work on every label. Its effectiveness depends upon the paper and adhesive used. Steaming works best on glossy, sticker-type labels attached with self-adhesive. Nonglossy, paper labels that are affixed with glues may require soaking in hot water to remove, though you may want to try steaming first to avoid distorting or damaging the label.
Tools and Technique
You can steam wine labels from bottles using a variety of tools often found in your home. Clothing steamers, vegetable steaming baskets, espresso machines and tea kettles all work just fine. You also need an oven mitt and long sleeves to protect your skin from burns.
A fairly safe way to remove a label while keeping your hands out of harm's way is by using a vegetable steaming basket placed over a pot of boiling water. Place the bottle in the basket and let it steam for five to eight minutes. Then remove the basket and begin peeling the label from the sides. Some labels may come right off without peeling; others will require some careful encouragement. However, the bottle is going to be hot so you'll need to use an oven mitt.
Clothing steamers, espresso machines and tea kettles all work basically the same as one another and offer more control than the vegetable basket method. Start steaming the label around the edges several times with a steady, yet not too forceful stream until the edges loosen. In some cases, this will be all you'll need to peel the label off without damage. If not, run the steam over the entire label until enough adhesive melts for the label to come free.
For trickier labels, you may need to seek other methods of removal. One alternative is to fill the bottle with hot water to melt the adhesive. Another is to place the bottle in the oven. For labels adhered with glue rather than adhesive, such as those on older bottles, soaking in hot water and carefully peeling may be your only option because the glue will not melt with heat. The water should not be boiling, but medium hot to avoid damaging the label. Use a razor blade for peeling.