No Waste: Recycled Wine Bottles

Hmm…looks like it might be time to build a wine rack!

I’ve been reusing my own private stash of wine bottles (alas, I recycled many before I thought to save them for my own wines!), but I finally got down to the last few and realized I had quite a bit more wine to bottle. Checking Craigslist, I found a few listings for cases of wine bottles for sale, but – even better – also found a local winery offering cases of empty (used) bottles for free!

The winery offering the free bottles (thank you, RCW!) had them out back, and an employee who happened to be taking a break in that area confirmed that the boxes were ready for new homes – and that we could take as many from the stack (of probably 30+ cases) as we wanted.

We didn’t take them all; in fact, we barely made a dent in the tower of empty cases, and the winery apparently replenishes that stack daily (to the joy of home winemakers like me). With a little elbow grease, the help of my trusty razor blade scraping tool*, some liquid soap, and a thorough interior cleaning and disinfection, they’ll be ready to be filled with a variety of country wines.

I’m crossing my fingers that they use the easily removed labels (hope, hope) rather than the super-gunky, nearly- impossible-to-remove kind. I’ve tried several methods for removing the labels from wine bottles, and here’s my standard approach:

  1. Fill bottle with hot water
  2. Soak in a basin/pot/bucket filled with hot water to which 3-5 tablespoons of baking soda has been added (some people swear by washing soda, instead, but baking soda is gentler and still effective – more on the differences here: Washing Soda vs. Baking Soda) for around 30 minutes
  3. Depending on the adhesive, the labels may slide right off or require some “encouragement” with a scraper
  4. If adhesive still remains after the label is removed, soap up the bottle’s exterior and scrub with a pot scrubber until it’s clean – put some muscle into it!
  5. Feel a sense of satisfaction for a job well done – and admire your gorgeous wine in your recycled bottle!
Ready for action! That scraping tool comes with its own warning. Use an old sponge because it will get gunky with adhesive.
“Acid sanitizer” may sound scary, but it’s commonly used by homebrewers to sanitize brewing equipment (be sure to follow the usage instructions).
Freshly denuded and sanitized – ready for wine!

It’s very rewarding to see bottles of your own wine – with ingredients you control – reclining in your wine rack. Country wine is accessible, easy, and delicious…why not try making some?

*obviously, exercise caution when using a razor blade scraper – I’ve stuck the blade into my finger more than once when scraping at particularly stubborn labels and now wear rubber gloves for additional protection during label removals

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