I’m cheap. Plus, I open a lot of bottles of wine on a weekly basis. The latter lends itself to the former in that I can gather, select and reuse bottles for my wines.
If one is particular about uniformity of bottles, most winemaking and brewing supply stores will have a selection of bottles and they tend to reduce per-case prices as one buys larger quantities of cases. And, you get a handy-dandy, matching, genuine, deluxe, authentic, custom cardboard box for the bottles (Luxury designer cardboard dividers not available in all instances. See store for details).
But, like I said, I’m cheap. I also tend to be process-oriented. So, I reuse bottles.
While I make sure to thoroughly wash out and drain each bottle when it’s emptied , the biggest hassle, by far, can be removing the labels and preparing the outside surface for relabeling.
I have found two effective methods for removing labels, each depending on the type of glue used on the label:
Since most home winemakers tend to drink more than one bottle of a particular wine, it becomes easy to collect a number of similar bottles and remove the labels – assembly line fashion.
What sometimes remains on the bottle, is the “ghost” image of a label. This can be annoying – especially when it’s not a layer of glue but a hazy, matte spot the shape of the label. If it’s just a layer of sticky glue which best comes off with heat, I have found that a plastic scouring pad, after soaking with a little commercial-grade orange cleaner (such as Zep, from Home Depot or another gentle de-greasing agent), a bit of patience and some elbow grease can get these ghost images removed or significantly diminished.
I make sure to rinse the bottles well after that, inside and out, and let them drain before they go into boxes. The bottles are then almost ready for wine. Remember to sparge with sanitation solution at bottling.
So, every few months, I take over the kitchen for half a day and peel labels and clean off “ghost” images. My wife likes that I clean the kitchen afterwards.
I do not use screw cap bottles. They are not reusable. You could conceivably cork them, but do not rely on the screw cap. Once opened, they do not provide a reliable airtight seal.
I also tend to prefer bottles that are lighter in weight and less bulky in size. Glass is glass and it’s not permeable to gas so thicker bottles won’t protect my wine any better than lighter ones. Additionally, these bottles tend to be more compact and space is at a premium at my house, these days.
Going back to the need for uniformity of size: If you have a Trader Joe’s near you and you can drink Charles Shaw without gagging, then buy as may cases as you will need to bottle your wine. I find the chardonnays and some bottlings of Sauvignon Blanc consistently clean, variety-appropriate and quite drinkable – the other stuff… not so much. You can drink the wine or just dump it. The price per bottle is comparable to what you’d get at a supply house, but you have still have to remove the labels which come off with the soak method described in the video, above.
Alternately, you are bound to find some inexpensive wine you like which comes in the shape and color bottles you need. Buy a few cases to drink as your every-day wine, if the price is right for you. Prep the bottles as above. (Handy-dandy, matching, genuine, deluxe, custom cardboard box and luxury premium designer cardboard divider come with the bottles. See store for details).