If the first sip of wine makes your lips pucker and your face shrink, I'm going to assume you pulled the most inexpensive bottle you could find off of the shelf in the grocery store. I don't blame you — those aisles of varying prices and French words galore can be overwhelming. Wine is wine, so what's the difference between a bottle that costs $3 and one that costs $300? Uh, probably the fact that the $3 bottle is gonna taste, well, terrible. But there are ways to make cheap wine better, as long as you're willing to get a little creative.
Don't get me wrong; I genuinely like a bottle of Trader Joe's Two Buck Chuck just as much as the next white zinfandel-loving girl, but every once in a while, I wish my go-to wine of choice tasted more luxurious. What's a broke, thirsty wino to do?
You don't have to be posh to drink like the queen. You could try some bizarre techniques to fix up your beverage, but as it turns out, there are several quick and easy ways to make even the cheapest wine taste like it came from a gourmet Italian restaurant's cellar full of vintage, aged wines. Here's how.
1. Pair it with cheese
Everyone knows that cheese is the perfect companion to wine. The sharpness of a cheese can mask the stronger taste of wine, and vice versa. The two complement each other for balance and harmony to please your palate. Also, cheese is just delicious, and you should have it on you always.
2. Add some fruit
Who doesn't love sangria? There's no better way to sweeten the bitterness of wine than by mixing in some fruits and berries. The addition of apples, strawberries, and the like infuse flavor, and they also add a nice, decorative touch.
3. Keep your wine cold
Adding ice or refrigerating before drinking can dilute an overpowering wine, and make it more refreshing to taste. It makes sense — you wouldn't enjoy a lukewarm beer, and there is a reason people prefer margaritas to be frozen or on the rocks. Wine connoisseurs will tell you that red varieties should be kept at room temperature for proper consumption, but I say add some ice to slow down the aromas for a smoother taste. Pro tip: Add frozen grapes for maximum results.
4. Aerate your wine
Exposing wine to air helps filter out some of the graininess, helping it breathe. That's why you often see people swishing it around in a glass several times before taking a sip. For wines that pack a punch, as budget-friendly wines often do, a quick trick to weaken the acidity is to aerate them — either by letting them sit for a while before serving, decanting, or using a fun little device. Purchasing a fancy-schmancy aerator can cost a pretty penny, but there are still some affordable options that'll get the job done, and impress all your friends while you're at it.
5. Make it a spritzer
Adding something fizzy and bubbly can tone down tart and unpleasant flavors, but if adding soda sounds like blasphemy to you, then you've probably never tried it. In countries like Spain, one of the top wine-producing countries in the world, natives have discovered the wondrous effects of adding lemon-lime soda (and other Fanta flavors) to wine, naming the mixed drink "tinto de verano." Another popular variation is called a kalimotxo, a.k.a. "the poor man's sangria." It blends red wine with a cola-based soft drink (yes, really). Hey, don't knock it till you try it.
6. Mull it
If you've ever enjoyed the comforting warmth of hot wine on a chilly day, you'll understand why mulling wine is a good idea in general. But even when it's not wintertime, cranking up the temperature of a red wine with some spices and sugar will reverse the low-grade taste.
7. Drink more wine
Although I don't advise drinking yourself into oblivion, even cheap wine always seems to taste better after a glass or two ... or three ... or the bottle. So what are you waiting for? Grab a glass, and grab a gal pal. It's time for more wine.
What does the perfect glass of wine look like? Check out our video below, and visit Bustle on YouTube.