Thursday, June 26, 2008

Removing Wine Labels

I’ve recently been thinking about saving some of the labels from the wine bottles I've been drinking. Here are some of the things I learned while scouring the internet for tips on the best way to do this.

The easiest method seems to be to use a product like Label Off (pictured at left) or Wine Appeal Label Remover. These are basically industrial strength tapes that pull the outer layer of the label off, leaving a lower layer of the label attached to the bottle via glue.

One writer suggests leaving the tape stuck on the bottle for several days so that a strong bond between adhesive and tape can be formed before trying to pull the label off. Some users complain that holes or tears occur using this method. The main thing I don't like about this method is that it makes wine labels appear laminated after removal. That's not really the look I had in mind.

A method I think I am going to try is to pour piping hot water into an empty wine bottle in order to loosen up the glue. If the first application of hot water doesn't work, I will repeat the process will fresh batches of water. The good thing about this method is that the label seems less likely to be destroyed in the removal process than in some of the other methods I described below. I'll let you know how well it works.

Another method that sounds promising is using steam from a tea kettle to loosen the label. This method might be used in conjunction with the previous one.

Some wine enthusiasts swear by the method of soaking the label in hot water with a few drops of dishwashing detergent and using a razor blade to scrape the label off. I assume that soaking the label can lead to label damage.

There are also some dry heat options. Some writers suggest using hair dryers to melt the glue, but I doubt the glue would get hot enough this way. A more radical dry heat solution involves placing the empty bottle in a heated oven and using a razor to scrape off the warmed label.

Mineral oil, rubbing alcohol and even gasoline are also said to be able to remove labels, but I don't recommend any of these methods.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Kerrygold Ivernia

I recently tried a tasty Irish cheese that I had not encountered before. Kerrygold's Ivernia is a hard, ripe cheese made from the milk of grass-fed cows. 'Ivernia' is an ancient name for Ireland.

The cheese is aged three years and has a rich, complex and buttery flavor. Ivernia seems to modeled after Parmigiano-Reggiano and indeed the aromas of the two cheeses are quite similar.

Like all hard, somewhat dry cheeses, Ivernia works well grated over a green salad, pasta, soup or pizza. It is also very enjoyable with a crust of fresh bread. Kerrygold recommends pairing Ivernia with Cabernet Sauvignon, Chianti or an Irish Ale. Recipes using Ivernia and other Kerrygold cheeses can be found here.

According to the pricing label that came with my wedge of Ivernia, the cheese is made from "cooked baby octopus, red onion, celery, black olives, roasted red peppers, and Italian marinade." We'll assume that someone at Premier Gourmet made a mistake with the label-maker.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Niagara New Vintage Festival

The 2008 Niagara New Vintage Festival begins tomorrow (June 14th) and runs through the 22nd. Special tastings and culinary events will take place at the various wineries of the Niagara region of southern Ontario.

You can even visit Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery in Vineland, ON, and sample some of Dan Aykroyd's wines at Lakeview Cellars. Dan was first introduced to Premier Cru Bordeaux and other fine wines by musician Steve Cropper while working on Saturday Night Live and the first Blues Brothers movie. Dan has announced plans to build the Dan Aykroyd winery in the west Niagara peninsula.

If you're in the area, this could be a good event to take dad to for Father's Day. A complete listing of festival events can be found here.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


I recently enjoyed a new kind of Spanish cheese (new to me, at any rate): Zamorano, a raw sheep's milk cheese from the region of Castile-León. The name comes from the city of Zamora, a provincal capital in Castile-León. Spanish shepherding families are said to have been handcrafting this cheese from the milk of the region's Churra and Castellano sheep for centuries.

Zamorano is a somewhat hard, pale cheese with a slightly sharp, buttery flavor. It is often compared to Manchego, though it is less dry and has a richer, nuttier flavor. During the three to nine month aging process its rind is brushed and rubbed with olive oil.

Zamorano pairs well with smoked meats, pears, tomatoes, and red wines such as Rioja, Zinfandel (the red, not the pink kind) and Cabernet. I highly recommend this very flavorful Spanish cheese.

(Buffalo readers: I bought my sample of Zamorano at the Lexington Co-Op.)

Photo credit: Jon Sullivan

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

L'Ottavo Chianti

I recently enjoyed two good wines from Fattoria L'Ottavo--a Chianti Classico and a Chianti Classico Riserva. In order to be a Chianti Classico, the wine has to made in the Classico subregion of the Chianti wine area, and it has to be aged in oak casks about four to seven months. Riservas are aged for at least two years, which smooths out the tannins.

I thought both wines were very smooth and paired well with a wide range of foods. They had a bright, ruby red color and aromas of cherry, plum, and vanilla.

The L'Ottavo Chiantis are made from about 80% Sangiovese grapes, with the remainder being comprised of Malvasia bianca, Canaiolo, Trebbiano, Merlot and Cabernet. Malvasia bianca, of course, is a white grape--an unusual ingredient in an ostensibly red wine.

The L'Ottavo estate is situated in Lucolena, part of the municipality of Greve in Chianti, at an altitude of 400m. The buildings at the estate have been converted into modern, stylish apartments for agritourists who want to visit the Tuscan winemaking region.

The L'Ottavo Chianti Classico sells for around $12 to $14, while the Riserva sells for around $16 to $19. They are affordable, enjoyable Italian wines.