Life Eat & Drink How you can make cheap wine taste better

How you can make cheap wine taste better

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Not everyone has money to spend on a good bottle of wine, and even if they did they might not want to.

For those of us who have a firm price ceiling for our Friday night pinot, working out how to make the best of a bottle can be just as important as the variety we choose.

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Once a bottle leaves a shop, various external factors come into play that we might not pay attention to, such as physical environment, mood, glassware and oxidation.

And while some of the habits of expensive wine drinkers are little more than pomp and circumstance, some make a real difference to the way we experience a drop.

cheap wine
Go for a cheap bottle – but make sure to drink it with someone you like. Photo: Getty/Supplied

Brad Lucas, owner of Melbourne wine store, bar and tasting group Cult of the Vine said affordable wine (under $20) can be transformed with the right treatment.

Get some air in there

Wine decanters may look like posh accessories for vineyard snobs, but aerating a cheaper bottle can vastly improve its taste, said Mr Lucas, who suggested simply pouring it into a jug half an hour before you drink.

“Especially for cheaper wines, which have a tendency to be a bit firm and angular, oxygen can really soften the flavours and bring them out,” he said.

In fact, Mr Lucas suggested that some cheaper wines actually taste better the day after they’ve been open.

“So don’t forget about a bottle just because you downed half of it the night before,” he said.

Reconsider your glass

Like decanters, large wine glasses can feel like they belong more with the wine elite, but Mr Lucas said big-bowled glasses weren’t just for looks.

“I’m all for wine being democratic and unfussy and drinking out of tumblers, but if you swap your tumblers for a broad glass with a big bowl, it encourages oxygen intake and softens the wine.”

Once it’s in that big glass, Mr Lucas also suggests giving the wine a proper “throw around”, or swirling it around the glass to really get the flavours going.

wine decanter
There’s no need for a decanter when you have a jug in the cupboard. Photo: Getty/Supplied

In simple terms: oxygen is good for wine when you first open it – which is why we decanter it and swirl it around. But if too much oxygen gets in (like when we leave a glass of wine out overnight) it can become fully oxidised, leaving it flat and even bitter tasting.

Don’t underestimate the setting

Even a wine devotee like Mr Lucas admits the ‘where’ and the ‘who’ can play a huge role in a wine experience.

“It’s a big factor – we’re definitely more inclined to enjoy wine when you’re dining with genial company,” he said.

Translation: drink it with someone you like, and you’ll be too busy enjoying the conversation to notice you’re sipping on a $20, rather than a $40 chardonnay.

“Drinking wine is just as much about the enjoyment of sharing as a group than fixating on the particulars of a wine,” he said.

“You can drink the same wine in two very different settings and have completely different experiences.”

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