“Accept what life offers you and try to drink from every cup. All wines should be tasted; some should only be sipped, but with others, drink the whole bottle.”
― Paulo Coelho, Brida
Wine connoisseurs are well aware that not all wines are created equal. From dry and port styles to rich reds and decadent whites, wine is the perfect accompaniment to a special meal and the solution to an exhausting day — just ask Olivia Pope.
Some wine, however, isn’t quite up to par with its fancier competitors. In cases like this, have no fear — and don’t go tossing that bottle away on a whim. Most wine is still useable. It may just need some extra assistance.
What Makes a Good Wine
One of the most important considerations when deciding what to do with a cheap bottle of wine is to know how good – or bad – it really is. Don’t pre-judge a bottle by its label or packaging alone. Instead, follow the system proposed by Tara Devon O’Leary in her article “4 Ways to Know if Your Wine is Good.”
She suggests smelling the wine in search of preferred floral or fruity scents. Next, have a taste to examine the wine’s overall “balance” and any hidden layers of flavor. Balance simply means that the bitterness, sweetness and overall taste of the wine are equally balanced without an overwhelming delivery of one specific note. Layers of flavors, or “depth,” refer to added notes beyond the typical fruit standard. Finally, notice how long the flavor lasts after you’ve had a sip. A longer lasting finish indicates a higher quality wine.
While oxidation of wine is important to help reduce bitter notes, too much oxygen can be a bad thing. In order to preserve the remaining wine left in an opened bottle, insert the cork and store the remnants in the refrigerator to limit air exposure. You can also purchase vacuum wine pumps that help preserve the shelf life of opened bottles.
How to Add Value to Cheap Wine
So what if your wine is overly tart and smells like vinegar? Can a cheaply-made bottle of wine even be salvaged? Don’t pour it down the drain just yet – these useful steps can help make the most out of a bad wine situation.
- Utilize Decanters
The process of decanting wine is an important one, as it allows the wine to aerate and lessens the overall bitterness of tannins (acidic components that give wine a tart taste). Pour the bottle of wine into a decanter, and leave it sitting for at least an hour to create a more satisfying, rich flavor.
- Head to the Kitchen
Some wines just aren’t fit to drink… so why not eat them instead? Add the wine in question to a slow-simmering chicken, or allow vegetables to absorb the medley of notes for unexpected side dish flavor. Some experts recommend using wine as a substitute for oil or butter in a recipe, which means that baking is even a possibility. This substitution is ideal for the health-conscious chef – just don’t forget to reward yourself for all your hard work in the kitchen with a glass of the good stuff.
- Chill Out
If the cheap wine is of the white variety, it can be chilled to help bring out the acidity and counteract any overly sweet notes. Red wine, however, is ideally served at room temperature due to its higher level of tannins.
- “Pitcher” a Better Taste
Another smart and easy way to salvage an inferior bottle of wine is to create sangria. Mix the wine and a variety of fruit (think citrus options like oranges, lemons and limes coupled with peaches, pineapple, and mango) in a pitcher, along with some brandy and honey to sweeten the deal. Red wine is the typical base for sangrias, although white is a perfectly acceptable substitute.
- Get Crafty
When all else fails, don’t forget the ample crafting opportunities provided by leftover bottles and corks. Seek out DIY ideas on Pinterest to create some low-cost cork picture frames or flower vases on a whim. Grab your hot glue gun and get to work making lemons into lemonade — or sour grapes into wall art.
Wine is meant to be enjoyable, so try your hand at making the cheap varieties a bit more decadent and pleasing to the palate. Give every bottle its fair chance, and you may just discover a low-cost way to enjoy the fruits of your labor.