How to Tell if Your Wine is Bad

Corked?

Corked?

Have you ever wondered if a wine has gone bad after tasting or smelling it? Ever heard someone say, “This wine is corked!” without really knowing what they were talking about? Have you ever worried you might get sick because you drank wine that tasted “off”?

Some people may define a “bad wine” as one they simply do not like. Disliking a wine due to a preference for a particular style, variety, or characteristic should not be confused with wines that have faults. 

In this article we will focus on wine faults, typical causes, and what to do if you run across the rare bottle that is truly bad.  

Why all this worry about wine flaws?

Bad wines (or wines with faults) are not as common as they once were. Still, there are many wine consumers who may be afraid to order wines at restaurants or purchase wines from a bottle shop with the concern that the wine may be bad.

Wines with faults were more common in decades and centuries past. Before reliable transport (refrigerated rail cars, refrigerated semi-trailers, air travel) wines risked the possibility of being “cooked,” frozen, or mishandled during transit either across the country or across the oceans (we discuss specific faults and causes of faults later in the blog!).

Technology in wineries has also improved the quality of wine. Minimal intervention wines still take steps to ensure that wines are stable, whether through natural or chemical means, so that they taste great and look delicious sitting on the shelf or in the display at a fine dining establishment.

Competition in the world of wine is also increasing, which drives poorer wines out of the market. Additionally, emerging wine regions get help from flying winemakers. If you have had a bad wine from a region or rural area in the United States even 10 or 20 years ago, consider going back and trying the wines from that area again to see if they have improved.

Some consumers consider a wine to be bad if it is one-dimensional (having only one flavor) or if they simply did not like it. There is some ownership required by consumers in discerning the types of wine they might like. That’s why a sommelier may confirm your order more than once, because he/she may know that the wine you’ve chosen is outside the ‘normal’ consumer pattern and does not want to open a bottle of wine that you may not like.  

Last, if you do buy or get a bad wine, let the merchant know as soon as possible.  When purchasing wines from retail shops or the winery, keep the receipt. If the wine is bad, most wineries or retail shops will gladly refund your money or give you a replacement bottle. They realize that an occasional bottle will go bad and have factored that into their bottom line.

Still, it’s important to remember that there’s a 97% - 99% chance that your wine is just fine!  However, in your drinking life, you may come across a few bad wines. Here, we discuss a few common symptoms of bad wine and how you might detect that they are bad.

Does unopened wine go bad?

Yes, unopened and even properly stored wines can go bad. 

There are some ways to tell if the unopened wine might be bad just by using your eyes!  Here are some visual clues to tell if a wine might be bad before opening.

  • Take a look at the top of the bottle of wine. Is the top of the cork flush with the bottle opening?  Or, is it raised up (coming out of the bottle) or sunken (going into the bottle)? Raised or sunken corks could indicate that the wine was exposed to high temperatures or pressure changes during shipment or storage.  

  • Just like some beers in clear bottles (like Corona), wine in a clear bottle can suffer from light strike and become “skunky” if it is exposed to light for an extended period of time.  So if you are shopping for wine and that bottle of Sauvignon Blanc is a little dusty (and its vintage is more than three years old), consider passing that bottle up for a newer vintage. Wines in clear bottles are designed to be enjoyed within 1-2 years of release. However, there are always exceptions in the world of wine, as some ageable wines like Sauternes do come in clear bottles.   

  • Ullage is just a fancy term for the ‘headspace’ in a bottle of wine.  If the wine is fairly young, there should be no ullage and the level of wine in the bottle should be the same as similar wines on the shelf. 

  • If you find that the cork is dry and brittle when you are opening a bottle of wine, there is an increased likelihood that the bottle might be bad. However, you’re going have to engage the nose and taste buds to determine this. There’s a good chance that oxygen was able to get past the cork and into the wine if the cork shrank. We’ve worriedly opened some older bottles with brittle corks and found that the portion of the cork near the wine was just fine and the wine tasted wonderful.  

What if my wine smells bad?

When you (or the sommelier) pour the wine into the glass, take 2-3 seconds to look at the wine for anything strange, like cloudiness, or color that looks a little off. If you aren’t sure, don’t be afraid to ask the server if the wine looks the way it’s supposed to. If you’re at home, there are great online tools for color of wine by style.

If you’ve visually inspected the wine bottle and have successfully freed the cork from the bottle at home (or have been presented with the wine at a restaurant), your next step is to engage the sense of smell.

In movies or on television, we often see people smelling a cork.  Unfortunately, smelling the cork is not actually going to help you determine if the wine is bad or not.  Instead, raise the glass to your nose and take a few discreet sniffs (short sniffs, like a when a dog meets another dog at the park and they check each other out) and see if there is anything strange or revolting. If you notice an unpleasant smell but have no idea if that smell is normal, just hand the glass back to the server and ask him/her to check it out. What you smell may simply be a characteristic unique to a wine you are unfamiliar with. Or, it could be a wine fault.  Remember, there is a 97 to 99% chance that your wine is just fine!

Last is the taste test.  I never trust the first taste because a lot of that first taste depends upon what you put in your mouth most recently.  I always take a tiny amount and discreetly swish it around my mouth and quickly swallow. Then, I get to the second sip. Almost always the wine tastes just as it should.

But if the wine really does taste off, you have a couple of options.  At the restaurant, ask the waiter or sommelier to pour themselves a sample to confirm the off-flavor and then ask for a replacement bottle.  If you are at home, replace the screw-top or cork in the bottle, place it in the fridge, and locate your receipt. Then take the bottle back to the wine store in the next couple of days and ask the wine seller to take a sniff or taste test. Most of the time the merchant will replace the wine or offer a refund.  If you purchased the wine from a winery, call or email the winery and ask about their wine replacement or refund policy.

What are some aromas or flavors I will encounter in a bad wine?

There are a number of descriptive words to describe wine faults (typically undesirable bad aromas).  These common words are actually associated with molecules or groups of molecules. Here are a few of the most common wine fault descriptors and the associated molecules. Some of these tastes and aromas are universally agreed-upon faults, while others are more ambiguous.

0387.  Wine Faults.jpeg

Oxidation (addition of oxygen during winemaking) and the flavors and aromas of a Brettanomyces infected wine are two types of ‘flaws’ that some would argue are pleasant and desirable depending upon the wine and wine style.  This debate is becoming more prevalent with the increase in the number of natural wines on the market. But, this is a topic for another article!

Where do wine faults come from?

Wine faults can be introduced at any time during the winemaking process and can be influenced by vineyard practices as well.  Their presence can be influenced by vineyard management (rootstock, trellising systems, watering timing, grape cultivation, harvesting, sorting, pressing, fermentation, winemaking, aging, bottling, storage, and transportation). 

At just about any time in the wine making process, something might go wrong. Depending upon the phase in the process, the vineyard manager, winemaker, or transporter may be able to remedy an issue or not. At times, the fault may be so severe that the production of certain lots of wine is a total loss for the year.  

In summary, many of the wine faults are introduced during fermentation and aging, resulting in undesirable molecule formation that may or may not be perceptible to human noses and taste buds. 

What if my non-sparkling wine is fizzy?

So you’ve opened a bottle of wine and heard a pop, even though you didn’t purchase a sparkling wine. Or, you feel the texture of tiny bubbles on your tongue and did not expect them.

In aromatic white wines like Riesling that are bottled young, you may run across such a phenomenon. This occurrence is typically not considered a fault. The bubbles are remaining from the primary fermentation or a little bit of CO2 was added at the time of bottling for a little lift of freshness.

In less aromatic white wines (like Chardonnay aged in oak) and in most red wines, the presence of fizz is most likely a flaw.  The effervescence, in this case, is likely from a secondary fermentation in the bottle after bottling. If the wine is a little cloudy, that often confirms that a secondary fermentation took place as the cloudiness is yeast or bacteria bodies in suspension.  

Why does my wine have no flavor?

Sometimes the wine's fault is that it has little to no flavor. This fault is a little more tricky to figure out, especially if you are at a restaurant and the server or sommelier is hovering over you asking if the wine is “okay.”

In this case, the first thing to check is the temperature.  If there is no aroma and flavor and the wine feels almost ice-cold, then you’ll have to wait until the wine warms up a little bit to see if aromas emerge.  For the same reason that most American lager is served at ice-cold temperatures, some low-end wines are also served at a very low temperature. This is because these wines simply don’t have a lot of flavor and many quality issues can be masked by serving wines at a too-low temperature.

If the temperature of the wine is good, then it could be that the wine needs some air or decanting in order to open up its aromas.  If you are unsure if the wine needs decanting, ask your server or sommelier if this is the type of wine that needs air, especially if you’ve never had that particular type of wine before.  If you are at home, you might want to investigate your wine on an App like Vivino or CellarTracker to see if others have had the same experience.

Why does my wine taste like vinegar or fingernail polish remover?

If you detect a sharp, acidic smell, that is the aroma of acetic acid (vinegar smell) and ethyl acetate (nail polish remover).  These compounds are created naturally by yeast and bacteria native to the vineyard.  

Winemakers try to control this by controlling the amount of oxygen exposure during winemaking.  While this can be fairly easy to control in commercial winemaking, once one starts to introduce aging in oak barrels, this type of acidity can become more prevalent.  The problem becomes a noticeable flaw when there is too much acetic acid produced and the acid reaches a flavor threshold or detectable level.  

Some wine drinkers are more sensitive to - and prefer to varying degrees - the amount of these acids present in wine. There’s nothing we can do to fix this fault in wine once it is present. 

What do I do with bad wine?

If you come across a bad wine, the best remedy is to speak to the merchant at the shop where you purchased the wine.  Most people who sell and serve wine know that an occasional bad wine is just a part of doing business.

If you purchased the wine from a winery, send them an email or give them a call, explaining what you experienced. In your message, describe the fault to the best of your ability. Most will take measures to refund your money or send you a new wine of the same or similar vintage.

If your wine is bad (or you have some old wine that you suspect is bad) you might want to consider ordering a vinegar mother and making your own vinegar.

What happens if I drink bad wine?

You won’t get sick from tasting bad wine, only if you drink too much of any wine!  Alcohol acts as a preservative, so even if there is a secondary fermentation after bottling, once the alcohol level gets to a certain point, yeast and bacteria die out.  As wine ages, it becomes vinegar. This happens for some wines faster than for others.  

How to Prevent Wine from Going Bad

Proper storage away from heat and light will help keep your wines in good shape if you store wine at home.  Check out our article on wine refrigerators and storing wine if you’d like to learn more.  

Want to geek out on wine faults?

Want to know more about the color of wine as it ages and about wine faults without all the chemistry?  Check out the James Beard Award-winning Wine Folly Master Guide.

Wine Folly: Magnum Edition: The Master Guide
By Madeline Puckette, Justin Hammack

More reading on wine faults for the citizen scientist:

Reading not enough?  Try a wine fault kit and spike some wines with fault aromas!

In conclusion

Now you know the most common ways your wine can go bad.  Wine faults continue to decline as vineyard managers, winemakers, and the distribution channels use more technology to reduce the chances of wine going bad. This blog offered some tips on how to use your sense (and your wits and resources!) to determine if wine is actually bad or just unpleasing to your palate.

We’ve also confirmed that nothing bad will happen to you if you happen to taste some bad wine.  Every human has a different level of sensitivity to all these aromas and flavors, so there is no need to fear that you do or do not smell the same things as your drinking partner if you do come across a bottle with a fault and you disagree on the fault.

If you do happen to purchase a bad bottle of wine, let the retailer know.  This feedback is very useful to retailers, distributors, and winemakers. Don’t think that you are bothering the person or being a difficult consumer - your feedback is helping the world of wine!  Bring the wine to the retailer so that he/she can help you in identifying the defect, if possible. If you have a bad experience with the retailer, contact the manager or the distributor. Don’t let your hard-earned cash go to waste.

And here’s to the 97-99% of wine that’s fault-free!

Cheers!

How to Create a Personalized Wine Journal - For Yourself or Your Favorite Wine Enthusiast

0374.  Personalized Wine Journal.jpeg

While there are a variety of wine tasting journals available on the market, most don’t allow for much personalization. We have a couple of favorite wine apps on our iPhone, however taking written notes on wines using a fine journal and a nice pen is relaxing and mindful (or should we say wineful?) Keeping a personalized wine journal is a great hobby for wine enthusiasts. And wine journals (and accessories!) are a great gift for the wine lover who has it all!

Why a Wine Tasting Journal?

A wine tasting journal is simply a place for recording observations and key aspects of the tasting experience to reflect upon later.  They can be used and enjoyed by wine journals can be used and enjoyed by wine novices, serious enthusiasts, and wine professionals alike. 

Students preparing for an exam through the Court of Master Sommeliers or Wine and Spirit Education trust take detailed notes on wines both to practice tasting notes and to commit to memory key points that will help them in theory or tasting exams. Studies show that writing things down is much more impactful than typing into a smartphone or laptop. 

Why not use a Wine Tasting App?

If you’re just getting started in taking wine tasting notes or want to take some quick tasting notes on the go, then yes, the apps available at vivino.com and cellartracker.com are great.  

But there’s just something to be said for pen and paper. If you’re like the rest of us, when you take out the iPhone to take tasting notes, it won’t take much for you to wander from your intent, either reading other users notes or going off the App and checking the weather forecast. Many people who prefer to take notes in a journal are looking for a chance to unplug and to discreetly take notes without the glow of a smartphone.

About Traditional Wine Tasting Journals

Traditional wine tasting journals are made by a variety of publishing houses and wine bloggers.  Many wine lovers find that these “out of the box” wine journals have both positive and negative aspects.  Below are some examples of traditional wine tasting journals.

The Moleskine Passion Journal:

The Write it Down Wine Journal:

Wine Journal Write It Down
Journals Unlimited

Positive points about traditional wine tasting journals:

  • Great templates for enthusiasts to enter in wine names, vintage, price, aromas and flavors, and general topics like where it was consumed, with whom and with what food

  • Wine tasting terms for beginners 

  • Wine references, like vintage ratings, maps and classic producers.  

Downsides to traditional wine tasting journals:

  • Unattractive cover design (e.g. dated, poor photo, corny phrase)

  • Heavy (e.g. leather, can’t take it with you on wine travels)

  • Looks too much like a wine journal (not discreet - you’ll be ‘that person’ in the tasting room)

  • Wine pairing basics or other ‘notes’ that are not of interest, adding bulk/waste to the journal 

  • Ink bleeding through on ‘cheap’ paper

  • Not enough space to affix wine labels

In case traditional wine tasting journals leave you feeling like you are “painting by the numbers,” this blog outlines a DIY wine journal package and methodology you may find useful. 

The Customizable Wine Tasting Journal Package

Let’s look at the components of a personalized wine tasting journal. 

The Leuchtturn Journal

We have been big fans of Leuchtturn 1917 journals since our first trip to Germany over 20 years ago.  

Here’s what we love about this journal:

  • There are bullets instead of lines.  These bullets allow writers to draw, write, or paste in their content without the visual deterrent of lines or the emptiness of a blank page

  • It has an index, and you can customize it!  We’re amazed that many wine journals don’t come with the option to create an index before jumping right into the note-taking.  

  • The journal lays flat - many leather wine journals don’t.  This creates a nice looking spine after year(s) of use. We like how ours looks on a bookshelf!

  • There’s a classy label one can affix to the front of the journal when you’re done using it.

  • There’s a sturdy envelope in the back of the journal to hold winery brochures, menus, wine label remover sheets, and maps until one gets the chance to affix the info into the journal.  

  • The journals are robust.  We’ve used one journal for a year during regional and global travel, on a boat, and bouncing around in a bag.  

  • The jornal is thin and slips in neatly next to one’s laptop or large tablet (8.85 x 12.4 inches).

  • These journals cost less than typical leather journals.

The Staedtler Pen

No one likes writing with a cheap pen, especially when taking tasting notes.  You want a pen with a fine tip that writes smoothly and is a pleasure to hold.  

The Staedtler Pen

These pens are ergonomic with a triangular shape and are very light in the hand.  The ink dries more quickly than gel pens. They don’t smear, bleed or feather.

The only downside we’ve noticed is that sometimes the lighter colors are not as ‘bright’ on paper as some would like.  We’ve noticed over the years that we use the black pen and the darker colors the most.

The Wine Label Lift 

Some wine enthusiasts love to keep wine labels for future reference (as sometimes it can be hard to remember the details of wine(s) the next day!). As you’ll see in our blog on wine label removal, this can can be done by removing the wine label from the bottle or simply taking a good photo of the label.  We do this either through taking photos of the wine labels or actually going through the motions of removing the wine label from the bottle.   

Our preferred method for removing wine labels is utilizing a wine label lift. These are simply adhesive films that one adheres to the bottle then removes - extracting the label from the bottle.  The label can then be inserted into the journal easily. While they don’t work 100% of the time, there are some tips/tricks online for increasing the likelihood of success when removing a label from the wine bottle. 

We really like that these wine label removers slip easily into the envelope in the back of the journal for storage until needed. Once the label is removed from the bottle, the journaler has the option of adhering it to the wine journal as a memento.

Document Edges for Maps, Menus, and Winery Information

In addition to the wine labels themselves, some wine enthusiasts love to collect momentos from the meal, tasting, trip, or bar where the wine was consumed.  For those purposes we love these document edges in classic colors for adhering such momentos to the journal.

Like the wine label removers, these adhesive corner pieces can also slip into the back of the journal for future use.

If You’re Gifting the Wine Journal Package

If you’re gifting the wine journal package, traditional gift wrap will work just fine. However, if you know a wine lover with a milestone birthday, anniversary or promotion, you may want to consider gifting the journal and accessories with a wine book or simply a bottle of wine. To make the gift extra special,  place the journal and accessories in this covetable premium leather wine bag.

Additional Resources for the Personalized Wine Journal

If you or your wine tasting journal recipient is fairly new to making entries in a wine journal, here are a few resources for different approaches to recording tasting notes:

Court of Master Sommeliers: For those who watched the SOMM movies and want to learn the deductive tasting grid demonstrated in the movies, this is the place to go to find the free grid pdf.  

Wine and Spirit Educational Trust: For those who prefer a more analytical approach to wine tasting, the WSET has courses available to wine enthusiasts and wine professionals, where one can learn the WSET systematic approach to tasting.

Also check out our article on the Wine Tasting Grid and how to set up a wine tasting in your home.

Finally, if you join a wine club or wine subscription, these services will often send attractive, informational cards that detail the qualities of your favorite wines. These make great wine journal entries!

You can be as simple or as elaborate as you like in your wine taking notes, including as many or as few details as you wish.  

Additional Accessories for the Personalized Wine Journal

Here are a few more items that wine enthusiasts might enjoy with their personalized journal:

Wine Aroma Wheel

With over 800 aromatic compounds to explore, Dr. Ann Noble, winemaker and professor emeretis of U.C. Davis, came up with this wine aroma wheel that’s been used for decades.   

Bullet Journal 

The popular bullet journal methodology helped us escape from the rigidity of templated journals.

Maximizing the Personalized Wine Tasting Journal Experience

wj1.jpeg

For wine lovers, journaling about the experience of each bottle is an invaluable resource for study and exam prep. It does not all need to be serious though!  Sometimes one simply wants to keep their unique tasting experiences separate from other journals.  Benefits of enthusiast documentation include watching your tastes and preferences grow and change.  

There are disadvantages to pre-printed wine journals - format, design and flexibility are limited.  The simplicity of a Personalized Wine Tasting Journal means that the journal will never go out of style.  At the core it is about the content and what you want to document for yourself or to share with fellow wine lovers.  

Happy journaling!

Cheers!






















How to Remove Labels from Wine Bottles

Label Lift to Get Label off of Wine Bottle.jpg

If you’re a wine and craft beer enthusiast, a winemaker, or a crafter (or are just curious!), you may find yourself needing to remove wine labels from bottles. Here, we offer an overview and specific details on how to get a label off of a wine bottle for a variety of purposes. As you’ll see, there is no one-size-fits-all methodology for removing wine labels.  

Why remove the label from a wine bottle?

Wine enthusiasts and scrapbookers may want to remove a wine label to save it in a wine journal or scrapbook. Winemakers remove labels for the purpose of re-use - they remove commercial labels from the bottle before adhering their own.  Last, artisans and crafters often use wine bottles or wine labels for crafts such as wine bottle glassware, wine tile coasters, or framed wine labels as wall art. 

What should I consider before removing a wine bottle label?

First, remember to keep the bottle you want to remove the label from! Far too often, a wine bottle disappears from the table or from the party before one thinks to save the label.  Once the bottle disappears, the only option remaining is to send a self-addressed stamped envelope (via snail-mail) to the winery and ask if they have an extra label from that vintage. Explain that you did not keep your bottle and that you want the label for your wine journal.  

Next, determine if you are able to take the bottle home with you or if you must remove the label there at the event.  Not being able to take the wine bottle home will significantly reduce your options for removing a wine label. Your only options then are the Lift-Off Method and the “kindly ask your server or sommelier if they can remove the label for you” approach!  

Once you have the bottle home, you’ll need to assess the label and the associated adhesive.  Determining which item you wish to keep - the label or the bottle - will dictate the method of removal you use.  

How do I decide the method of label removal for a particular bottle?

What is the label constructed of?  If the label is plastic (more like a sticker) it will be less permeable to water.   If it is plastic, then removal will often require heat or physical means (such as a razor) regardless if you are trying to save the label or just the bottle.

If the label is paper, then it is more permeable to liquids and a different removal method may be needed depending on if you are trying to save the label or the bottle.

Labels adhere to wine and beer bottles through a variety of adhesive polymers. These include pressure-sensitive adhesives (sticker-like) and water-based glues.  Since many of us are not adhesive experts, we will be assessing the label using visual assessment to guess the composition of the glue and to select the label removal method with the highest likelihood of success.

To assess the adhesive construction, take a razor or knife and lift a corner about ¼ inch.  If the adhesive looks like traditional glue, the use of a detergent and water-based method can be considered.  If the adhesive looks more sticker-like in consistency, then heat or physical means (razor, peeling) will be your best bet.     

Wet Label Removal Methods

So, the label you want to remove from the wine bottle looks to be a more conventional glue composition - these label types are typically more water-soluble.  

The OxiClean Method

Based on our personal experience, as well as those in most wine and craft beer forums, we find that the most successful method is the OxiClean approach. We’ve used the OxiClean method on both paper/glue bottles as well as plastic labels with adhesive. If you don’t have Oxiclean in the house, try a comprable household cleaning product.  

Here’s an effective OxiClean label removal method we found in a craft beer forum:

  1. Fill sink (or bucket) with one gallon of water and ¼ cup Oxiclean.

  2. Submerge the wine bottle in the liquid.

  3. Wait thirty minutes (during which time you may as well enjoy a glass of wine!).  Depending upon the adhesive, you may return to find your wine label floating in the sink intact.  

  4. Take a utility knife and slowly lift up on the edge of the label.  If the label is not easy to peel off after thirty minutes of soaking, it’s not going to come off using this method without significant elbow grease. You might as well resign yourself to drying the bottle and trying a dry method. 

  5. Work the utility knife under the label at a diagonal angle. Resist the urge to use your fingers to help speed along the process, as using fingers may result in adding wrinkles to the finished product.

  6. Place the wet label on a piece of waxed paper so that the wet adhesive does not stick to your counter

  7. Once your label is dry, use an acid-free glue stick to adhere your label to your wine journal, your prepared coaster, or photo frame.  Check out this article for making your own wine label coasters.



    Other Household Cleaners to Use for Wine Label Removal

    Ammonia

    No OxiClean?  No problem. Household ammonia is another product, in combination with water, which can aid in dissolving adhesives. Instead of using ¼ cup OxiClean replace it with ¼ ammonia. The ammonia method, in our experience, is a little less effective than the OxyClean method.  

    Baking Soda

    Only have baking soda on hand?  Add 5 to 10 tablespoons to one gallon of warm water and follow the same steps as the OxiClean method.  

    Hot Water

    No OxiClean, no ammonia, no baking soda?  Try placing the bottle in boiling water, or filling a sink with hot water and dish soap and letting the bottle sit overnight.  Regardless, there is going to be some elbow grease involved to remove the adhesive residue.  

Accessories for Wet Method Wine Label Removal

Regardless of your method - OxyClean, ammonia, simply hot water - if your aim is to discard the wine label and use the bottle for crafting or home winemaking, two products are indispensable.

First, you can scrape the residue with a straight razor or this slightly safer razor with a handle. If you scrape too hard, you can scratch the bottle.

You can also try a non-abrasive scrubber that is gentle and won’t scratch the wine bottle unless you apply superpower strength.  

Still a little bit of adhesive?  Goo Gone is our go-to product for adhesive removal.  After using the Goo Gone, we recommend thoroughly washing the bottle soapy water before re-using to adequately remove the Goo Gone (Goo Gone residue may interfere with your crafting products).

Dry Label Removal Method

Label Lift Method

This method is for the crowd who wants to keep the label in a wine journal or affix it to cardstock for a souvenir.

Our favorite Label Lift is the Onephile Label Lift. We’ve found that this label lift works well when following instructions - we’ve yet to come across a label that gets ripped or torn by the process.  

To apply the Label Lift, simply place it over the label, rub for 1-2 minutes with the backside of a spoon or other hard object, then peel the label. 

Before placing the label in the wine journal or book, you can trim the edges.

These label lifts come in packages of 10 or 50.  To get the hang of it, we recommend getting your technique down with a label from a wine or beer you don’t intend to keep, or practice by first removing first the back label (which most people don’t collect).

This lift label package also fits nicely inside a notebook or wine journal for easy transport.  

The one downside is that the wine label now appears laminated.  If that is not a look you are going for, then try the Oven Method.  

Heat (Oven) Method

So, you don’t like the idea that your wine label appears laminated after removal. Perhaps you would like to make a wine label trivet or mount the wine label onto cardstock for framing.  Or maybe you collect them for eventually making a collage for your wine cellar (lucky you!). Try the heat method! You’ll need some oven mitts for this one.  

First, make sure there is no wine inside the bottle.  Also, make sure that the foil cap or wax bottle cover is removed so there are no foul odors when heating the bottle.  

Place the wine bottle on a cookie sheet (or in a baking dish so it is not rolling around in a dry oven) at 350 degrees F for 5 minutes.  Remove the bottle from the oven and check the readiness of the label for removal by testing the back label. Slip a razor or knife under the label and start to peel slowly from one corner. Don’t force the label or push with your fingers as this is how labels get crinkled during removal. If the label does not give, give it another 5 minutes in the oven. If after 15 minutes the label will not come off, you will have to use another method (like the OxiClean method) as the adhesive needs to be dissolved to come off cleanly.

That’s a wrap … and a few bonus tips!

We’ve provided you with several options for removing wine labels from the bottle, whether you are wanting to keep the label or the bottle!

Removing a label from a bottle of wine is never a perfect endeavor.  A little trial and error is involved in the process as well as some elbow grease.

If you don’t want to go through all this effort, here are two options:

  • You can ask the waiter to remove the wine label for you if you are enjoying a special bottle of wine in a restaurant.

  • You can send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the winery and ask for a pristine label.  They may have one available to send to you (however, it won’t, of course, be from the specific bottle you drank).

Let us know which methods you’ve used in the comments!

Cheers!

Six Steps (and Three Tips) to Throwing an Amazing Wine Party

oktoberfest wine party riesling pinot noir.jpg

We’re in the business of wine tasting and wine education, but there’s no reason learning can’t be fun. In our classes, tastings are a relaxed, no-fuss affair among friends (in other words, a party!). Love entertaining? Curious about wine? Great! We want to help you set up an amazing event that will both impress your friends and teach them something, too.

 

Here’s how:

1. Decide what you want to know about wine:

  • Are you planning an upcoming trip to a specific wine region, like Bordeaux or Napa Valley?

  • Do you have a favorite grape variety you’d like to know more about, like Pinot Noir or Chardonnay?

  • Are you curious about how wines differ from vintage to vintage?

  • Do you want to explore wines similar to your go-to brand, but slightly different?

  • Or do you want to choose from one of our signature wine classes?

2. Select a general time frame for the event (say, the month of November). Hosting a tasting just for fun or to connect with friends is a wonderful idea, but you might also want to consider coordinating your tasting with a birthday, promotion, or holiday. Wine parties also make a fun and engaging gift for bridesmaids and groomsmen.

3. Select a few specific dates and times for the event and present them to your potential guests to see which will work best. Yes, we understand it is difficult to get any group of adults together! Consider using Doodle, Evite, or Facebook Messenger to help everyone decide on a date more efficiently (and without a long chain of emails!).

4. Choose a location for your wine party. We recommend a home dining room with a table that can provide a space at least 22” wide x 16” deep at each sitting area — you’ll want everyone to have room for a tasting grid, wine glass, and other sampling items. A simple white tablecloth (or no tablecloth!) is fine. If you don’t have a big table, KnowWines can create the extra space needed with portable folding tables that can be covered with a tablecloth.

wine party appetizer pairing.JPG

5. Finalize the number of guests based on the results of your Doodle poll (or another invitation tool you may have used). We recommend four to eight participants because it is a intimate group size that can fit at one table and allow the space and time for conversation and questions.  An odd number of people is also perfectly fine.

6. Plan your food pairings. KnowWines will bring crackers to your tasting, and you can provide as little or as much additional food as you like. We’re happy to help with suggestions for additional pairings!

So, you’ve planned the party and are expecting a handful of friends to arrive later that day to learn about wine with you. Here are a few tips for day-of party preparation:  

1. Make sure the table is clear about one hour before the tasting so that KnowWines can arrive to set up the tasting. It’s fine to have cool or room-temperature appetizers and cheese already on the table, along with a pitcher of water.  

2. Don’t light any strong candles or wear heavy perfume the day of the tasting. This could interfere with properly tasting and smelling the wine.

3. Relax and enjoy yourself. We promise to show your guests a great time!

The Wine Tasting Grid: A Roadmap to Understanding Wine

You can download a wine grid from global organizations like WSET or buy one like this from www.winefolly.com

You can download a wine grid from global organizations like WSET or buy one like this from www.winefolly.com

If you’re ready to get intimate with wine, to really experience its complexity and find the vocabulary with which to express that complexity, a wine grid is essential. A grid like the one we use at KnowWines is a visual guide for understanding the wine in your glass. This is a professional wine taster’s tool, but it’s also a tool that can make understanding great wine a more accessible task for any wine consumer.

Why a wine grid?

In today’s society, taste and smell - perhaps because they require more time and attention - are underutilized. Instead, we tend to focus on the senses that offer more immediate gratification, like the visuals of a popular new film or YouTube video, the touch of our slick smartphones, or the sound of new music and ringtones. In contrast, aroma and taste are slightly more complex senses, and thus, it may be harder for some people to articulate their experiences with them. Professional wine tasters, however, are well-versed in these senses, and that’s because they’ve taught themselves to experience wine differently than most wine consumers and can anticipate what a wine tastes like.  They utilize a tasting grid as a road map, which is a classification system to identify and make associations between wines and their characteristics. By tasting different types of wine, paying close attention to their qualities, and comparing those qualities on the grid, they build a framework and knowledge for understanding the nuances of great wine. It’s also a great idea to enter your tasting notes in a personalized journal while you’re tasting wines, as a reference for future wine purchases.

Would you like some mushroom with that Malbec?

Here’s a sampling of the vocabulary you’ll find a wine tasting grid:

A wine with a “microbial” aroma might have notes of mushroom, sourdough, or butter.

Qualities of aged wine might include hints of leather, tobacco, dried fruit, or coffee.

Wine with a strong floral nose may have hints of elderflower, honeysuckle, rose, or lavender.

A wine with vegetal qualities may encompass sun-dried tomato, grass, or bell pepper.

How exactly does the wine grid work?

The grid breaks the wine down into parts: the wine’s visual qualities, it’s aroma (or “nose”), and it’s structure. For those of us who fall short of words when trying to describe wines (and let’s face it, most of us do), a grid provides the necessary vocabulary. For example, when describing a wine’s visual qualities, you may consider its clarity (is it clear, hazy, murky, or bubbly?) and its color (is a red wine more ruby or more purple?).  Next, you’ll consider the wine’s aroma. Here, the grid offers a poetic array of taste and aroma descriptors, from spice (thyme? mint? eucalyptus?) to oak (vanilla? cigar box?) to citrus (marmalade or grapefruit?). Then, you’ll consider the wine’s structure. This is a bit more advanced, but it’s a category of wine knowledge made more accessible by the grid. In this category, you’ll consider the wine’s level of sweetness (is it bone dry or very sweet?) and it’s level of tannin (does it contain more wood or more grape?). Over time, your combined understanding of these elements in wine will help you to more easily identify the region a wine comes from and how it was made. And, most importantly, the grid helps you understand which wines you love and where to find them.

wine tasting grid sweetness level.jpeg

Will the grid work for me?

Once you learn how to use it, absolutely! This grid incorporates the key concepts of tasting grids and is an approachable tool for novices and enthusiasts alike.  Tasting grids take the mystery out of wine lingo by offering step-by-step documentation of your sensory experience to share with others in lively discussion. So, not only do you get to share your experiences with others, you’ll also end up with a record of what you tasted that can guide your future wine-buying efforts.

Cheers!