Written by: Tim Edison

Updated: January 4, 2024

10 Ways to Make Disappointing Wine Taste Better

Ways to make disappointing wine taste better cover

The truth is it's pretty hard to buy a bad bottle of wine these days. What with apps like Vivino, you've got the feedback and opinions of a whole wine community at your fingertips.

But, we don't always agree and life would be very boring if we did! So, what happens when that bottle of wine turns out to be far less appealing than the reviews had you believe?

Is it possible to make wine taste better?

These are my tips for salvaging disappointing wine. Of which I've sampled a lot! 

10. Breathe Some Life into it

Decanting is a process that involves pouring wine from its bottle into a separate vessel called a decanter or carafe. This simple act of transferring the wine exposes it to oxygen, a process known as aeration. But why does this matter?

Wine is a complex mixture of compounds, and when it interacts with air, a chemical reaction called oxidation occurs.

This oxidation can help soften flavors and release aromas in the wine, thereby enhancing its overall flavor profile and making it more enjoyable to drink.

Red wine being decanted

Aeration is particularly beneficial for heavier, more robust wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux blends, or Syrah

These wines often have high tannin levels, which can give the wine a harsh effect when it's young. By exposing the wine to air, the tannins in red wine can soften, making the wine smoother and better balanced.

But it's not just about the taste. Aeration can also enhance the aroma of the wine. When you swirl wine in a glass, it's not just to look sophisticated. This action helps aerate the wine, releasing its bouquet of aromas.

Our sense of taste is strongly linked to our sense of smell, so a wine with a more pronounced aroma can also seem to have a more defined flavor.

However, not all wines benefit from aeration.

Lighter, more delicate red wines such as Pinot Noir or light-bodied white wines like Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling typically do not benefit from decanting.

These wines are valued for their fresh, crisp flavors and aromas, which can be muted by excessive aeration.

Read our detailed guide on how to decant wine like a sommelier for more information. You can also use a device called an aerator to achieve the same effect.

9. Serve it at the Correct Temperature

Serving temperature plays a crucial role in how a wine tastes and smells. When served at the correct temperature, a wine's full array of flavors and aromas can be appreciated, significantly enhancing the overall wine-drinking experience.

For red wines, serving them slightly cooler than room temperature, around 60-65°F (15-18°C), allows the complexity and depth of flavors to shine. If red wine is served too warm, the alcohol can become more pronounced, overpowering the subtler flavors and making the wine taste flat and less balanced.

White wines and rosés, on the other hand, are typically served chilled, around 45-55°F (7-13°C). This temperature helps to highlight their crisp acidity and fruity flavors. If these wines are served too warm, they can lose their refreshing quality and taste overly sweet or alcoholic.

Different wine serving temperatures

Sparkling wines and Champagne are usually served at even cooler temperatures, around 46-53°F (8-11°C), to maintain their effervescence and crisp, delicate flavors.

Serving a wine at its optimal temperature can indeed improve its taste. It can help balance the flavors, bring out the aromas, and enhance the overall structure of the wine.

However, it's important to remember that these temperatures are guidelines, not strict rules. Personal preference should always guide your wine-drinking experience. If you find you enjoy your reds a bit cooler or your whites a bit warmer, go ahead and enjoy them the way you like best.

You can learn the optimal serving temperatures for all wine types in our big guide.


8. Let it Age

Aging wine is a complex process that can significantly alter the taste and aroma of the wine. When done correctly, aging can enhance a wine's complexity, balance, and depth of flavor, leading to a more enjoyable drinking experience.

The process of aging allows the tannins in the wine to soften and the flavors to meld together, creating a smoother, more harmonious taste. Over time, new flavors and aromas can also develop, adding layers of complexity to the wine.

However, not all wines benefit from aging. In fact, the large majority of wines are made to be consumed within a few years of production.

These wines, which include many white, rosé, and lighter red wines, have a fresh, fruity character that can be lost with age.

Stackable Modular Wine Rack Stackable Storage Stand Display Shelves

On the other hand, certain types of wine are well-suited to aging and can significantly improve over time. These typically include full-bodied red wines with high tannin levels, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Nebbiolo, and Syrah, as well as certain white wines like Riesling and Chardonnay.

These wines have a strong structure and enough acidity to preserve them over time, allowing them to develop complex flavors and aromas.

It's also important to note that proper storage is crucial for aging wine. Conditions such as temperature, humidity, and light exposure can greatly affect the aging process. Generally, wine should be stored at a cool, consistent temperature, away from light and vibrations in something like an under counter wine refrigerator.


7. Pair it with the Perfect Food

Pairing wine with the right food is a culinary art that can significantly enhance your enjoyment of both the wine and the meal.

When done correctly, a good wine and food pairing can create a harmony of flavors that is greater than the sum of its parts.

The basic principle behind food and wine pairing is that certain elements in the food and the wine interact with each other, and these interactions can either enhance or detract from the flavors in both.

For example, a rich, fatty steak might overwhelm a delicate white wine, but it could be perfectly balanced by a robust, tannic red wine.

There are a few key factors to consider when pairing wine with food:

  1. Balance: The weight, or body, of the wine should be in balance with the weight of the food. A light, delicate dish like grilled fish might be overwhelmed by a full-bodied red wine, but it could pair beautifully with a crisp, light white wine.
  2. Complement or Contrast: The flavors in the wine and the food can either complement each other or provide a contrast. For example, a buttery Chardonnay might complement a creamy pasta sauce, while a crisp, acidic Sauvignon Blanc could provide a refreshing contrast to a rich, oily fish.
  3. Flavor Interactions: Certain flavors in food can affect how a wine tastes. For example, sweet and umami flavors can make a wine seem more bitter and astringent, while sour and salty flavors can make a wine seem sweeter and fruitier.
  4. Regional Pairings: Often, wines pair well with the traditional cuisine of their region. For example, Italian wines often pair well with Italian dishes, as they've evolved together over centuries.
Wine And Food Pairing


6. Blend it Like a Master Winemaker

Blending wines is indeed a practice that can be done to create your own "master blend." This is actually a common practice in winemaking, where different grape varieties are often blended together to create a balanced and complex wine.

Bordeaux blends and Super Tuscan wines are two really famous types of wine blends that can be incredibly delicious.

This is something that can be done at home, allowing you to experiment with flavors and create a wine that is tailored to your personal taste.

This is a really fun exercise to try that's a big test of your palate. But, it's also a fairly risky thing to do. You risk wasting lots of wine if you get it wrong!

Here are some tips on how to blend wines effectively:

  1. Understand the Wines: Before you start blending, it's important to understand the characteristics of the wines you're working with. What are the flavor profiles, body, acidity, and tannin levels of each wine? This knowledge will help guide your blending decisions.
  2. Start Small: When you begin blending, start with small amounts of each wine. This allows you to experiment with different ratios without wasting too much wine.
  3. Experiment with Ratios: The ratio of wines in your blend can significantly affect the taste. Start with a base wine, and then gradually add the other wine(s) until you achieve a balance of flavors that you enjoy.
  4. Taste as You Go: Continually taste your blend as you add more wine. Pay attention to how the flavors, body, and texture change with each addition.
  5. Take Notes: Keep track of the ratios and types of wine you use in each blend. This will help you recreate your favorite blends in the future.
  6. Let it Rest: After blending, let the wine rest for a bit before you taste it. This allows the flavors to meld together.
  7. Experiment and Have Fun: The most important part of blending wines is to have fun with it. Don't be afraid to try unusual combinations or experiment with different types of wine.

Try combining an aged wine with a vibrant, fruity young wine. When mixed thoughtfully, the older wine may enhance the complexity of the inexpensive, youthful one and turn a cheap, overly sweet wine into something much more appealing.

5. Store it Properly!

Ever opened a bottle of wine to find your experience of it just doesn't align with reviews in any way?

It's probably been spoiled in some way by being incorrectly stored at some point (it may also be corked).

Proper wine storage is crucial to maintaining the quality and taste of wine. Improper storage conditions can lead to a number of issues that can spoil the wine, making it unpleasant or even undrinkable.

Here are some ways that improper storage can spoil a wine:

  1. Temperature Fluctuations: Wine is very sensitive to temperature. Ideal storage temperatures are typically around 45-65°F (7-18°C), with 55°F (13°C) often cited as close to perfect. If wine is stored in conditions that are too hot (above 70°F/21°C), it can cause the wine to age prematurely. On the other hand, if the wine is stored in conditions that are too cold (below 45°F/7°C), it can dry out the cork, potentially leading to leakage and oxidation.
  2. Light Exposure: Wine is also sensitive to light, particularly white wines and rosés. Prolonged exposure to light can degrade and prematurely age the wine. This is why wine is always stored in dark places.
  3. Humidity: The level of humidity can affect the cork in the wine bottle. If the air is too dry, it can cause the cork to dry out, allowing air to get into the bottle and oxidize the wine. If the air is too humid, it can lead to mold and damage the wine labels.
  4. Positioning: Wine bottles with corks should be stored on their sides. This keeps the cork moist, preventing it from drying out and cracking, which can let air into the bottle and spoil the wine.
  5. Vibration: Excessive vibration can disturb the sediment in the bottle and speed up the chemical reactions in the wine, leading to premature aging.
Wine refrigerator door open

4. Make Some Sangria

Sangria is my absolute favorite red wine cocktail and it's really easy to make. It's a great way to make your disappointing red wine taste better.

The best wines for making great sangria are bold, fruity and dry. Spanish reds like Tempranillo, Garnacha, or other Rioja wines are the perfect choices.

Here's a quick, easy, and delicious sangria recipe.


  • 1/2 medium apple, cored and chopped into small pieces
  • 1/2 medium orange, sliced into small pieces, seeds removed
  • 3-4 tablespoons of organic brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup of orange juice
  • 1/3 cup of brandy
  • 750 ml bottle of dry Spanish red wine
  • Ice for chilling


  1. Add the chopped apples, sliced oranges, and sugar to a large pitcher. Muddle these ingredients together using a muddler or a wooden spoon for about 45 seconds.
  2. Add the orange juice and brandy to the pitcher and muddle again to combine for about 30 seconds.
  3. Pour the red wine into the pitcher and stir to incorporate. Taste and adjust the flavor as needed. You may want to add a bit more brandy, orange juice, or brown sugar. Stir to combine.
  4. Add ice and stir once more to chill the sangria.
  5. Serve the sangria as is, or with a bit more ice. You can garnish with orange segments if you like.
  6. Any leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours, but it's best when fresh.

Related: Making kalimotxo is another way to breathe life into a tired-tasting red wine.

Sangria in a glass

3. Mull it

If the weather is getting cold a mulled wine is more appropriate than a cold sangria.

A fruity, full-bodied red wine is typically used. Some typical choices are Merlot, Zinfandel, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Here's a simple recipe.


  • 2 large oranges
  • 4¼ cups of red wine
  • 1¼ cups of brandy
  • ½ cup of dark brown sugar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 3 cardamom pods, slightly crushed


  1. Using a peeler, remove the peel in strips from one orange and then juice the orange. Use the other orange for garnish.
  2. In a nonreactive saucepan, combine the orange peel, juice, and the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a medium heat and continue to stir until all of the sugar dissolves.
  3. Increase the heat to high, bring the mixture to a boil, then immediately reduce the heat to low. Simmer gently until the flavors meld, about 30 minutes.
  4. Strain the mixture, discarding the solids.
  5. Ladle the mulled wine into cups or mugs. Garnish with pieces of the leftover orange.
Mulled port cocktail in a glass

2. Drink Sweet Wine with Spicy Food

Pairing sweet wine with spicy food can sometimes enhance your enjoyment of the wine. This is something to try if your wine is overly sweet and you want to improve your experience with it.

Spicy foods often contain capsaicin, the compound that gives chili peppers their heat. Capsaicin can create a burning sensation in your mouth, which can be intensified by alcohol.

However, sweet wines can help to counteract this effect. The sugar in the wine can help to soothe the burning sensation, making the spice more enjoyable and less overwhelming.

The sweetness of the wine can also complement the spiciness of the food. The contrast between the sweet and spicy flavors can create a balance that enhances the overall taste experience. The sweetness of the wine can also help to bring out the other flavors in the spicy food, making them more noticeable and enjoyable.

The acidity in many sweet wines can also help to cleanse the palate, refreshing your taste buds and preparing them for the next bite of spicy food. This can make each bite seem more flavorful and exciting.

1. Get Cooking

While it's often said that you should only cook with wine you'd drink, there are ways to make use of less-than-stellar wines in your cooking. Here's how:

  1. Deglazing: After sautéing meat or vegetables, a splash of wine can be used to deglaze the pan, lifting those flavorful browned bits stuck to the bottom. The wine's flavor will concentrate as it reduces, masking any unpleasant flavors.
  2. Marinades: Wine can be used in marinades to help tenderize meat and add flavor. The alcohol in the wine can help carry flavor into the meat. A wine that's not great for drinking can still impart good flavor in a marinade.
  3. Braising and Stewing: When you're slow-cooking meat in a liquid, as in braising or stewing, wine can add depth and complexity to the sauce or broth. The long cooking time will mellow any harsh flavors in the wine.
  4. Sauces: Wine can be reduced down with aromatics and used as the base for a sauce. The reduction process can help concentrate the better flavors in the wine and minimize the bad ones.

However, there are limits. If a wine is corked, meaning it has a musty, moldy smell and taste due to a tainted cork, it's not salvageable for drinking or cooking.

Similarly, if a wine has turned to vinegar, it's not going to do your dish any favors unless it's used as a vinegar substitute.



Sometimes you just need to give up. If a wine is corked then there's no saving it. Likewise, if it's been damaged by excessive heat or sunlight the chemical composition of the wine has been altered and it's beyond repair. It happens and sadly it's something you just have to take on the chin.

However, there are ways you can salvage a bad wine and enhance your enjoyment of it. I hope you find one of my suggestions useful! I'd love to hear about your experiences in the comments section down below!

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About the Author Tim Edison

Tim started Wine Turtle way back in 2015.
These days he contributes to Wine Turtle (and other renowned wine publications) while continuing his wine education.
Tim's wine of the month is the Coates & Seely Reserve Brut NV (from Hampshire, England).

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