Subscriber OnlyDrink

John Wilson: Here is how to make your cheap wine taste better

How to Drink Better: Mix good and less good wines together, serve it with food, and use your best glasses even if it’s an inexpensive bottle

Q: How can I make my budget wine taste better?

A: Can you make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear? I’ve never tried, but I do believe that you can make your wine, however little you paid for it, taste better.

There are various hacks online, including adding sugar or lemon juice to wines that taste too sour or sweet. I wouldn’t recommend this, but I have sometimes blended a little good wine into a lesser bottle; it works sometimes and can be fun. I usually do it to lower or increase the alcohol of a wine. A half-glass of a leftover good 14.5 per cent red added to a scrawny cheap 12 per cent wine can make an amazing difference.

If it is a white or rosé wine, try adding sparkling water to make a spritzer, or your own pet nat. Two parts wine to one part water for a spritzer, more red wine for a pet nat. However, the easiest way to make a cheap white wine taste better is to chill it. Ten minutes in an ice bucket will kill all flavours, good and bad. Serving a red wine at the correct temperature, about 18 degrees, will also improve the flavour.

We think that most wine tastes better with food. However, we often taste less of the wine when enjoyed alongside food. If you serve it with a bland firm cheese or plain meat with a cheap red wine, it certainly takes any rough edges. As a bonus, the wine will probably make the food taste better.


We eat and drink with our eyes: if something looks good, it raises our expectations and increases our enjoyment. So, serve your supermarket special in a nice decanter and drink from large tulip-shaped glasses, only filling it a third to half full. If you can afford a thin-walled glass from a company such as Riedel or Schott-Zwiesel your guests will think your wine is much better than it actually is.