7 Ways to Make Wine Taste Better

Don't resign yourself to drinking a subpar bottle of wine.

Photo: © adoc-photos/Corbis

It’s a familiar predicament for wine drinkers — the wine shop closed its doors early and you’ve lost the liquor store lottery. Now you’re left with a less-than-ideal bottle from a limited selection. Or maybe you took a chance on a new label that turned out to be disappointing. Do you have to suffer through your mediocre wine until you’ve consumed enough not to care? Not necessarily. There are steps you can take to make wine taste better or at least trick yourself into enjoying it. Here are seven ways to make the most of not-so-stellar selections.

1. Chill wine

As temperatures drop, flavors become muted. While many of us drink our worthy white wine a bit too cold, slightly above freezing is the perfect temperature for less enjoyable 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

Mushrooms can work wonders to enhance the taste of red wine due to their umami-rich flavor. The earthier the mushrooms, the better the effect. If your wine’s specific problem is a sandpapery mouthfeel, try adding red meat, as the fat and protein both help to 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 a subpar wine. If your palate is busy dealing with garam masala or another intense spice combination, it might not notice that your Riesling isn’t the best.

5. If it’s oaky, drink it while you’re grilling

If you notice that your Chardonnay has an overwhelming aroma of burnt wood, it may have been overly treated with a process that involves soaking charred wood chips in the wine before bottling. Don’t worry. 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 in

While it may not work for every wine — or with every penny — if you have a bottle that smells of struck matches or rotten eggs, adding a penny to your glass might be helpful. These odors are caused by certain sulfur-related compounds that can be neutralized by the copper in the penny. Simply clean a coin, drop it in, swirl, remove, and enjoy. When it works, the difference is amazing.

7. Bake it into a chocolate cake

This is actually a tip for making a lousy 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.

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