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Fixing bad red wine

  • r

Any ideas?

I bought a box of Trove red wine. It is really tannic and sour. Is there anything that can be done to take the edge off?

I'm the only one in the house that drinks wine, so making something like sangria deosn't make sense. At most I drink two glasses of wine, usually one.

Is there some secret to salvaging it?

I don't want to use it in a recipe because when I do take the time to cook, I use good and pricy ingrediants and don't want to risk ruining a dish with this swill. If there IS a recipe that would not be ruined by the wine, let me know and I'll post an inquiry on home cooking.

Is there a spice or something that could be thrown in the glass to make it taste better? Would bitters like in vermouth help?

I'm even at a loss on how to search this on the web. I got the bright idea of searching red wine cocktails.

One idea of mixing red wine with ginger ale seems to have promise. I'll probably try that.

There was another idea of a black cherry soda/granberry juice/red wine combo that for some reason doesn't sound bad.

Another was I guess you could call a lazy sangria of mixing red wine with lemonade.

I got most of those ideas from the link below. They have one of the most horrendous cocktails I have ever heard of though called the appothocary - vermouth, Fernet Branca and creme de menthe ... yikes.

So is there anything I can do other than throwing three liters of wine down the drain?

Link: http://www.drinksmixer.com/cat/2286/

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  1. The LA Times food section today had an article about a magnetic pouring device to put in the end of the wine bottle which softens the tannins & smooths out the taste of wines which are too young to drink. I can't recall the website for it but I think it's free to check out the Los Angeles Times online. The pouring thingie costs $30. It's available in some wine stores as well as online.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Babette



      Order now and I'll include another one for the tip of the gas pump. 100 mpg guaranteed. Oh, and I also have a large bridge for sale.

      1. re: Babette

        DON'T fall for it. These things don't work for water or gas, and they won't work for wine.

        It's just a scam.

        Link: http://www.dansdata.com/wineclip.htm

        1. re: Loren3

          That is just a brilliant article. Not only should anyone who is considering the wine clip read it, anyone who is considering any miracle product should read it.

          I loved that the wine clip people said that the CEO of Pepsi thought so highly of the wine clip that he invested in it leading the wine clip people to say "so this is not a hoax."

          First of all, personally that statement would set off warning bells for me about the product. Any disclaimer like that since I first heard "I am not a crook", is enough to make me skeptical. Never associate a negative word with a product or yourself.

          Then the fact that they never said how much Scully invested and pointing out that he might have realized it was snake oil, but profitable snake oil. So meaningless info.

          Very funny and informative. I'll pass on the wine clip ... but maybe if there is anything to this, I should throw a couple of refrigerator magnets on the wine box ... the ultimate fate of that wine clip ... expensive fridge magnet ... I wonder if it improved the flavor of everything in the fridge.

          Thanks again.

          1. re: Loren3

            Well, this wasn't about the wine clip. The LA Times article:


            It featured a taste test, you can read it for yourself; I have no personal experience with this. The claim was it could turn 2 buck chuck into 6 buck chuck. I try to avoid lousy wine to the extent my budget can afford it. Does anyone have any actual experience with this device, called the BevWizard?

            1. re: Babette

              It is all but impossible to do a "blind" tasting with things like this -- or the "straw" thing --but scientific tests have shown it does NOTHING.

        2. Return the wine to the store.

          1 Reply
          1. re: biltong

            Absolutely best idea. Let the staff at the store taste it as there could very well be a defect and they would they probably gladly give you a new box.

          2. Try tonic water.

            1. Dump it down the drain and consider it a lesson learned. Life is too short to drink bad wine. If you drink wine, you should know better than to buy swill.

              1. No. You can't even make decent vinegar from bad wine. The only thing you could possibly do is dilute it so much that you no longer taste it and what'd be the point of that? Some box wine is perfectly drinkable (I've never had one that I thought was actually good) but mext time don't buy a 3l box of something you've never tasted.;)

                1. Sometimes I use poor wines for a reduction sauce. Pour the wine into a pot, add some chopped carrots and onions, maybe a little orange juice, and simmer for a few hours until you have a concentrated sauce.

                  Starting with bad wine, you aren't going to end up with anything great. But you may mask the tannins and sourness, and up with something slightly more useful. I divide the sauce into individual portions and freeze.

                  Someone else suggested taking the wine back to the store. I was under the impression that the wine was low quality but not necessarily "one bad apple". If you just don't like the wine, the store is unlikely to refund your money.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: Darren

                    Actually I disagree. If you are a regular customer in a store they will gladly exchange or refund anything you don't like. I worked off and on in the wine industry for 25 years and never had a problem with this. It is a way to learn your customers tastes and suggest more appropriate wines for them and increase your long term sales. If the store doesn't help out occasional problems they will lose business.

                    1. re: Darren

                      Right. It is not wine gone bad, it is just bad quality wine.

                      I might try that reduction since it doesn't cost a lot in ingrediants and I won't feel bad if I have to toss it.

                      I bought this at my neighborhood supermarket, Raley's, so it's really not the type of place that if the wine doesn't meet my personal taste it can be returned. I don't want to invest the energy in that for a number of reasons.

                      I thought maybe of telling the wine manager that it was not very good, but the most likely result of that is the manager filing that info in a mental waste basket and identifying me as a crank. Yeah, there are exceptions ... that one manger who is going to seriously take the word of an unknown person.

                      I'm hoping to get more constructive ideas out there than 'don't buy swill' or 'dump it'. If there are no good suggestions, well, I can figure out for myself to take the loss.

                      As to buying swill, I'm buying into the hype that higher quality wines are being boxed and giving them a chance. Even going to the lowest denometor of boxed wines like Vella, I've never bought a boxed red wine that wasn't at least marginally drinkable or ok to use in cooking.

                      Given that the price of Trove was higher than Black Box, I was expecting something in the same quality range. There wasn't much on the web about it except the marketing self-congratulations. After a lot of digging, I found out the company also markets Arbor Mist ... well, there you go.

                      Continuing a little searching, as far as the tannic qualities I guess I could aerate it a little by letting it sit out which is supposed to mellow it.

                      Maybe only drinking it with foods that are good with tannic wines would help. As one web site said "fat in meat and dairy products coats the palate, which makes a tannic wine seem surprisingly velvety. "

                      Don't know how that would help the sour factor though.

                      I really don't drink all that much wine and am the only person who drinks it in the house. Often a bottle sits around a while before getting finished. So I like the convenience of boxed wine where it can sit for weeks in the fridge and when I'm in the mood for a glass of wine, it is there. I save most of my better wine experience for restaurants where I can buy a glass.

                      So if there are any ideas to tone down the sour and tannic quality I'd appreciate it. I might trot down to a local home wine-making supply store to see if there's anything they sell that could help.

                      I mean this isn't the first time I've bought crummy wine and probably won't be the last. It would be nice to know if there is something that can be done besides making the drain happy.

                      1. re: rworange

                        Usually I will use wine that I don't like to drink as part of a marinade on steaks or (best because it uses more) as part of the cooking liquid for dishes like pot roast or lamb shanks. After cooking for 2-3 hours with the meat, tomato products, spices, onions, and other veggies, the wine adds a complexity but its individual flavor has long vanished. It can also be used as an ingrediant in long cooking red sauce for pasta.


                        1. re: rworange

                          I know how you feel. I love to ck out different wines and sometimes I get a great one and sometimes, like yours this time, not so good. I think if you used it to poach fruit, such as pears, it would work just fine. I love poached fruit---and it will use up a lot of your wine. I also agree about using in a marinade or a long cooked pasta sauce. I once had some mogandavid (Mom's fav----but I hate) and used it in pasta sauce and it was great, so you never know. For me, I don't mind getting a not-so-good- bottle of wine now and then, it's part of the fun of trying different wines.

                          1. re: rworange

                            You wrote: "I'm hoping to get more constructive ideas out there than 'don't buy swill' or 'dump it'. If there are no good suggestions, well, I can figure out for myself to take the loss."

                            I agree completely. Unfortunately, there's a minority out there who are ready to jump on anyone who doesn't measure up to their standards. It's frustrating. I think this is a good topic because everyone -- even those who regularly buy more expensive wines -- inevitably end up sometimes with a bottle that just isn't that good. The advice to just be a smarter shopper is quite trite, not to mention unhelpful.

                            The advice from another poster to use the wine as a meat marinade is also good (and probably less work that making the wine sauce). Then again, if the wine made the meat inedible, then you'd really feel bad. :)

                            1. re: rworange

                              I also like to experiment with wine. I tried a recommended merlot that I found too tannic and mixed it with a good tasting cabernet with a weak finish. Both are under $9 and I ended up with a delicious meritage. Thinking I was really on to something I tried it with cheaper Trader Joe swill. Mr. Lauriston hit it when he said "good wine isn't cheap and cheap wine isn't good", though I might ammend that to "really cheap". I think my septic tank works better now that Trader Joe is down there working. Also, I love to have an open bottle of wine around; it's just-opened wine that is often not good without a chance to breathe.

                              1. re: BN

                                That's one I haven't tried yet, mixing it with another wine.

                                Thanks to all the ideas. Out of what I've tried sot far, the best was a 50/50 mix with Odwalla lemondade. Actually this was too good. I could drink quite a lot of this.

                                Like Nick mentioned the lemon juice helped and adding the sugar turned this almost into any easy Sangria type of drink.

                                It took all the sour and tannic out of the drink.

                                Since the lemonade took the awful out of the wine, I am more comfortable using it in something like a tomato sauce which would probably mask the bad part as well.

                                Letting sit for a while to aerate made it as drinkable as any box wine in the Franzia range. Also, chilling it took the edge off of it.

                                I had this lemon that was sitting around forever and was going to try that until I discovered it was a rogue citron. Yeah, citron/red wine ... not a good thing.

                                I squeezed some fresh OJ in there ... eh.

                                Thinking of the red wine/ginger ale combo, I let the wine sit for a while with a piece of fresh ginger ... awful ... it made it taste medicinal.

                                Mixing red wine with ginger ale didn't work very well either. By that time I had tried the lemonade/wine combo and this just wasn't anywhere as good. Also it accentuated the tannic quality.

                                I tried it Portuguese-stle and mixed it with plain tap water which made it drinkable, at least.

                                Lemonade and bad red wine ... it's a good thing.

                          2. A few suggestions...

                            The easiest and most common way that I'll try to fix a glass of bad red with with a small squeeze of lemon juice. This is normally useful for a wine that is overripe and therefore low in acidity, so it may not work here, but it may help.

                            Also, try drinking it cool or even outright cold.

                            Normally if I hear a red wine is too tannic and too acidic, it means one thing: it needs to age. Over time, acidity and tannin molecules will react with each other and other chemicals in the wine to soften, change, and (if all goes well) improve the wine. I doubt this boxed wine has what it takes to improve with age, though.

                            Try quickly soften the tannins, try aerating it. A few seconds in a blender may do it well.

                            With acidity, there's not much to do. The only thing I can think of is adding a bit of sugar. Sweetness will mellow the acidity and cover some of the harsh flaws. That technique is used a lot in Champagne and Germany, which by necessity and geography pick their wines young when they have high acidity and possibly underripe bitter edges that often need to be balanced with a bit of residual sugar.

                            Now, if it's downright sour, like a vinegar, there's really nothing I can think of that will make it drinkable. It may be fine as an ingredient, especially with something long-cooked like the suggestion below.

                            I make my own vinegar, but I definitely start with higher quality raw materials than what you've described in this wine. It may be worth a try, though. You'll need a vessel large enough to hold it, a piece of cheesecloth and a rubber band to cover the end, and a starter. If you need a bit of vinegar mother, send me an email and you can pick up some of mine when you're in SF again.

                            Finally, sangria is still a possibilities. Sangria is best when it ages for several days. You could mix up small batches to last you 3-4 days.


                            1 Reply
                            1. re: nja

                              I live in SF and have been trying to buy a vinegar mother. SF Brewmaster is out of stock, as are the two online catalogs I found. Can I please get a vinegar mother from you? If not, do you know anyone who might have one?

                              Thanks in advance.

                            2. r
                              Robert Lauriston

                              If it's really bad, nothing to be done but return it.

                              If it's just too acid and/or tannic for your taste, try diluting it with sparkling water. If there's no point at which the taste becomes palatable, throw it out.

                              1. How about a red wine spritzer--mix with a citrusy soda (7-Up, Sprite, etc.) and garnish with a slice of lemon.

                                1. I can't believe there are 22 posts on this.
                                  Quick fix === DUMP IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                                  1. If you like drinking wine, instead ox buying carton wine which is never any good, not where I'm from anyway, why not try the half-bottle? The half contains 2 or 3 glasses. You could also invest in a pump that will take the air out of the bottle so the wine will still be good a couple of days down the road.

                                    1. Don't waste time or money trying to "fix" a wine. Bad wine can't be fixed. If it is truly 'sour' it may be off, and should be returned to the store. Stores send wine back to their vendors for credit. That being said, box wines may be a bit different. If it was cheap, and not worth the gas to return it, then pour it down the drain. I go by the rule of not cooking with a wine you wouldn't want to drink. Sounds like you don't want to drink it as it is. Tannins soften with age; unless the gadget is a mini time machine, it is, as so many have said - a gimmick.

                                      1. How big is the box, and how bad is the wine?

                                        If you mix it 1/3 Trove swill and 2/3 Premier Cru Bordeaux, you'll be able to stretch your Bordeaux supply.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: The Perrer Assassin

                                          Life it too short to endure bad wine, don't you think?

                                        2. However bad it was last July, it's certainly beyond saving now.

                                          1. I realize his wine is long gone, but I have had luck tossing in a few grains of salt to make a not good wine taste a bit better.

                                            1. Why the heck would you want to drink a wine you wouldn't cook with? Did you spend a lot of money for the box? sounds to me like it would make a better drain cleaner than anything else! I'd cut to the chase and eliminate it.

                                              1. 1. Your at someones house and the wine is not good. If you can make it palatable without attracting attention, why not.

                                                2. Sometimes that might be the only wine available and you want a glass of wine. We are not talking rotgut here, just not really good quality.

                                                3. Some people hate to throw money down the drain without making an effort.

                                                1. There are lots of winemaker's sites that advise on making bad wine drinkable. Yours is no exception, except it came in a box instead of you making it. Pretty much anything you are likely to encounter (tannins, "sour" acids, sulfurs, clarity and off tastes and aromas) can be dealt with.

                                                  You could almost certainly improve the wine, but it could take some effort and time. Note that if you go down this path you'll likely spend more money than you would have by just writing it off, but you'll learn a lot.