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Why are my wines' labels falling off?

MaryAnn Worobiec
Posted: December 16, 2010

Q: The labels on some of my bottles that I'm cellaring at 55 degrees and 65 percent humidity are starting to wrinkle and come away from the bottles in places. I can smooth them over and press them down again with my fingers, but some of these bottles I intend to sell down the road and I want to keep them in as pristine condition as possible. What is the cause of this? Is my humidity too high? How can I fix it to keep these bottles in the best condition possible?--Berg Atkinson, Alexandria, VA

A: Your cellar conditions sound like they're in the sweet spot, but if your labels are wrinkling, too much humidity is my guess too--as the paper gets wet, it starts to expand and wrinkle. I wonder if it's only happening in a particular part of your cellar, or only with a particular brand of wine? I'm guessing the labels that are wrinkling are on older bottles, and the label is applied by a water-based glue (the kind where if you soaked the bottle in an ice bucket, the label would just slip off). These days, most people use labels that are attached to a wine bottle with a stronger adhesive--more like a sticker, which helps labels age better.

There's not much you can do to fix already-wrinkled bottles, since the only real solution would be to take off the labels, iron them flat, and re-affix them. But you could try to wrap the labels in plastic wrap tight to the bottle and see if that works--my only concern is that if the label is really humid and moist, you might be tempting mold into that situation.

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