Let it breathe
The most common way for drinkers to enhance good wine is to decant it. A freshly opened bottle of wine will have been locked inside a tight space for months, or preferably, years. Decanting wine into a wide-mouth vessel allows more oxygen to get into the drink. However, if your cheap wine has an unpleasant stench, you might want to keep some of those aromas locked up.
Since 90% of “tasting” is actually smelling, we tried drinking bad wine out of tumblers with lids, or “sippy cups.” By keeping the lid on, we were spared from the uncomfortable aromas. To then further enhance this experiment, we played with perfuming the lid. Try rubbing the area where your nose hits with an aroma that complements the style. If drinking a cheap merlot, for example, try rubbing the lid with blackberries. The experiment will have you tasting better wine without adding anything directly to the liquid.
On the other hand, if a wine wasn’t properly exposed to oxygen during the winemaking process, it becomes strangled and the aromatic compounds can’t blend. This creates sulfur compounds that cause a wine to be “reduced.” Reduced wine has the unpleasant aromas of boiled vegetables, rotten eggs, and burnt rubber -- not the exactly the flowery description the label promised. Some hours in a decanter can allow these smells to “blow off” and let the more promised fruity smells prevail. We gave an at-home aeration system a go to speed up the process of adding oxygen, and it helped some. Wine can be aerated faster in a blender or by using a whisk. We experimented with both on a malodorous screw-top pinot grigio and found that whisking worked just as well as blending, and made for an easier cleanup.
You can effortlessly aerate wine by keeping it open for a few days before you drink it. Keep the wine in larger containers, like magnum bottles or big jars that seal. The open headspace in the bottle will aerate the wine effectively without the use of bulky kitchen appliances.