The Life of Wine

 |  June 26, 2013

Amazing things to make with old corks and wine bottles

Once again this month’s column is a response to an intriguing question: ‘Is there anything useful I can I do with my old wine bottles and corks?’ My initial response would have made for a very short article indeed, so I decided to do a bit of research and quickly found myself in the world of ‘upcycling’. Unlike recycling, which returns useless old stuff back into the system, usually to produce something of a degraded quality, upcycling is the process of turning useless old stuff into new, improved stuff. Of course it is, and the following piece is not simply recycling ideas I’ve nicked off the web – it’s upcycling.

In my thus far rather sheltered life, I have always been of the opinion that a wine bottle has no better use than to be filled with wine and that a cork is best employed keeping that wine in the bottle. What a fool I have been.

The internet is awash with clever ideas of what to do with an empty wine bottle or two _ often contributed by those who appear a bit too keen to get from the full to empty wine bottle stage so they can start inventing.

I have decided to skip how to dress a wine bottle up in a miniature kimono or tiny dress, because that’s just mad; and painting a bottle with bright colours and pretty patterns is self-explanatory. I’ve also rejected the idea of building a house out of wine bottles, because I think that would constitute an oven in Thailand. But here are some truly exceptional, and practical, ideas.

Those in denial about just how much wine they put away, why not see how long it takes to collect enough corks to create a marvellous bathmat? I reckon you will need around 200. Split the corks down the middle, and glue or nail the flat side to a bit of board. The results of the project will be more impressive if you don’t just stick the corks down in rows – try creating your own unique cork pattern! Perhaps attempt to spell out your own name?

The really great thing about a cork bathmat, is when you get bored with it you can hang it on the wall and hey presto! a pin-board for old receipts, reminder notes or the artistic efforts of small children. These things also make handy rafts for unwanted kittens.

For those gentlemen who really love their girlfriends or wives, why not surprise the hell out of them on a birthday or anniversary with a pair of cork earrings? They are unsurprisingly cheap and easy to make. Just be prepared for a tangible reaction to your efforts. Top tip if you are going to start cutting, drilling or carving up old corks _ soak them in hot water for about 10 minutes. This will stop them from crumbling, much like your relationship is likely to do just after your loved one realises how much you appreciate her.

I’m still to meet the woman who doesn’t start to weep when she sees what I can do with a candle and an empty wine bottle. However, rather than just sticking a candlestick in the bottle neck and lighting it up to produce a romantic effect, why not fill an old bottle with fairy lights? The result is simply enchanting. I have seen some more ambitious wine bottle lighting options, but these involve tinkering with mains electricity. In Chiang Mai, that’s never going to end well.

And how about a wine bottle oil lamp? Dot a few of these around the garden and you are bound to have friends and guests speechless in open-mouthed awe. Get a bottle, fill it with something flammable, pop a wick in and light the end. Actually there must be a bit more to it because that’s basically a petrol bomb, isn’t it?

This article would be incomplete without touching on wind chimes. For some mentally talented individuals, the chinking of glass in the wind is like angel’s tears raining down from heaven. To make a really effective wind chime out of an old bottle, I found you need slightly more specialist tools than a hammer. Not to worry, I’m sure there’s a diamond–tipped bottle-cutting machine up for grabs on one of Chiang Mai’s secondhand websites. Once you have that, the only thing holding you back is imagination _ or some shred of humanity that respects the right of your neighbours not to be driven out of their own minds.

And finally, nobody has ever really been able to explain where the punt _ that dimple at the bottom of most wine bottles _ comes from or what its purpose is. There are dozens of theories, but I think I can finally provide a definitive answer: it’s to put boiled eggs in! Simply cut the bottom off a wine bottle and there you have it, an egg-cup.

I do hope I have piqued your interest in upcycling bottles and corks. For those wanting to learn more, I suggest applying for day-release and getting a helper to explain how Google works. One day you could have your very own stall at the Sunday market!