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How to Make a Cheap Bottle of Wine Taste Better

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Tue, Jul 22, 2014 at 6:00 AM
click to enlarge wine bottles - FLICKR/BAYNHAM GOREDEMA
Okay, we’ve all been there. You’re going to a party or a picnic, or maybe you’re going to check out the Twilight concert at Santa Monica Pier on Thursday night, and you don’t want to bring a really nice bottle of wine, but all the inexpensive bottles of wine just taste cheap. Well, here’s how you get your cheap bottle of wine to taste better.

White Wines:
What’s nice about a white wine is that it’s served chilled, and the colder the better. By chilling a bottle of wine to the point where it’s on the brink of being frozen, you’re numbing the flavor notes. Chilling slows everything down, making it harder for the aromas in the wine to release. If the acids and alcohols are too cold to become vapor, then the wine won’t smell like much, and if it doesn’t smell like much, then it doesn’t taste like much either. In fact, on a hot night an ice-cold high acid white wine like pinot grigio can hit the spot — just be sure to keep the bottle on ice until it’s empty.

Lets face it, when you’re hanging out and trying to stay cool while listening to music and talking with friends, you’re not really swirling and nosing your wine to find the subtle aromas of lychee fruit and lime, are you?

Red Wines:
Due to temperature, sometimes a cheap red wine is harder to mask. But here’s one surefire tip to making it taste a whole lot better: Decant it.

By aerating the wine and allowing oxygen to get in, you’re also allowing some of the less pleasant qualities of the wine to settle. All you need to do is pour the wine into a larger vessel like a decanter or pitcher — the more surface area the better — and when you’re transferring the wine from the bottle to the container, just pretend you're in the movie Cocktail. By holding the wine high above the decanting vessel and allowing it to splash a bit, you’re getting air into the wine; and then once you’ve transferred the entire bottle, give it a shake to foam it up. Then let it sit for about thirty to forty-five minutes.

Don’t have that much time? Here’s another tip: Pour your cheap bottle of red wine into a blender and hit high for a few seconds. There are a lot of sommeliers out there who are going to shake their heads at this little trick, but in a pinch it works. A blender will whip air through the wine, basically accelerating the decanting process. I promise it’ll taste a lot better after the mix.

Say your red wine still doesn’t taste quite right. The logical option is to consider the food you're serving. Try to offer the wine with really salty and spicy snack food, like wasabi peas, salted nuts or salty and spicy chips. Salt and spice have a way of numbing your palate so the wine will simply be a natural thirst quencher. 

If that doesn't work, you can always mix the wine with fruit and alcohol and make it into sangria, right? 

Be sure to check out the free Santa Monica Pier Twilight Concerts every Thursday night. And never be ashamed to bring a cheap bottle of wine to a free concert. 


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