So, the real wine shop was closed and you’ve lost the liquor store lottery. Must you suffer with your medium-gross wine until you’ve consumed enough not to care? No. There are steps you can take to improve almost any wine, or at least trick yourself into tolerating it. Here are seven ways to make the most of not-so-stellar selections.
1. Chill it down.
As temperatures drop, flavors become muted. Most of us drink our worthy white wine too cold, but just-above-freezing is the perfect temperature for lesser bottles.
2. Adulterate it.
That is, make a spritzer. Or sangria. Or the Basque specialty kalimotxo (red wine and Coke).
3. If it’s red, drink it with mushrooms.
For reasons that wine-world pseudoscience hasn’t yet ventured to explain, umami-rich mushrooms tend to make ho-hum reds taste better. If your wine’s specific problem is a sandpapery mouthfeel, add red meat: Fat and protein both neutralize rough tannins.
4. If it’s sweet, drink it with something spicy.
Sadly, assertive cuisines like Thai and Indian tend to obliterate the delicious nuances of great wines. Happily, they’ll also obliterate the unpleasant nuances of bad wines. If your palate is busy dealing with garam masala or another intense spice combination, it’s not going to notice that your low-rent Riesling is lacking a bit in acidity.
5. If it’s oaky, drink it while you’re grilling.
Does your cheap Chardonnay smell like a burning 2-by-4? It may have been subjected to a process whereby big tea bags full of charred wood chips were dunked in it prior to bottling. No matter. Smoky foods work well with smoky wines, and a charcoal-grilled burger is the best kind of distraction for your palate.
6. Drop a penny into it.
This won’t work on any old not-so-great wine, but if you have a bottle that smells like struck matches or rotten eggs, adding a penny to your glass might actually help. Certain sulfur-related compounds can cause these smells, and copper makes them dissipate. Clean a coin, drop it in, swirl, remove and enjoy. When it works, the difference is amazing.
7. Bake it into a chocolate cake.
OK, this is actually a tip for making bad wine eatable. While you typically shouldn’t cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink, that rule can be relaxed a bit for baking. With sugar, chocolate and whipped cream involved, the wine contributes only a mild boozy note to this surprisingly good dessert.