Poland is the only European country that maintains the obligation to display the state seal on imported bottles. A bureaucratic requirement that is, for those of us who are small- to medium-sized producers, disagreeable and tedious, because done entirely by hand. Wine that enters Poland, when more than 100 litres, must have these seals placed at an L on the bottle closure. The licensed importer requests them from the Polish authorities and sends them to the producer who then applies them, after which the merchandise can enter Poland legally for commercial sale. Commercial businesses that are found with bottles without the band incur very steep fines.
The requirement to apply the Polish banderols takes me way back, to the days when all bottle labels were applied by hand, before the 1970s when the machines that replaced the “manpower” became widespread. The atmosphere was great, because there were a lot of us and from one stroke of the glue brush to the next, one chatted, debated and joked; it was a social time. The ritual required a piece of glass to be prepared before starting work, for spreading glue, a mixture of water and white powder also prepared in advance. There were many different roles to be played: there was the person who placed the label on the glass, the person who passed the newspaper over the just-placed label, pressing it hard on the glass to make it soak up the glue better. In the end, the labels were placed on the bottles using a variety of techniques, he who balanced the bottle on his stomach either upright or flipped, and at this, the arguments with my dad were already making themselves ever so kindly heard….