The bottle labeller

Her gestures are smooth and accurate. With a firm yet delicate movement she glues the paper, takes hold of the bottle, and positions the label at the exact centre of the bottle. She uses a ruler to confirm the judgement of her expert eye, sometimes adjusting the label by just a quarter of a millimetre. She then takes the golden crest of the Royal Warrant and sticks it on with nimble fingers, getting its position absolutely right the very first time. The bottle labeller’s dexterity is fascinating: with a few perfectly controlled movements she transforms an unlabelled bottle into one that is fit for a feast. She places the back label on the exact opposite side of the bottle with an expert hand. Then the neck label, lead cap and foil, so easily torn, that she folds and smoothes tenderly without a tear, as if it was straightforward and simple.

At Bollinger, small orders with specific labelling and large-sized bottles are individually labelled and capped by hand with great care. Here a tax sticker, indispensible for export purposes, must be added; there a back label in Russian, Polish or Chinese; and the bottles of Vieilles Vignes Françaises each bear a serial number, making each one unique… Only two bottle labellers still know how to work the old way, with ingrained knowledge of the delicacy and accuracy required for this particular task. Their gestures are methodical and light, careful, caressing and almost affectionate: It is almost as if these bottles, which they are preparing for shipment to distant lands, require a little pampering before their long journey.

Could the person removing the wrapping from the bottle at the other end of the world possibly imagine that it was labelled and capped with such care?

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