Two Buck Chuck Tastes Way Better With An Easy Freezer Hack

Trader Joe's famously cheap Two Buck Chuck — or Charles Shaw wine as it's more formally known — has fuelled entire generations of wine drinks, so much so that even though the vino has far exceeded its two-dollar price tag in the past, its affectionate moniker still lingers. But the consensus on Two Buck Chuck has always been divided: Some varieties of the budget wine are thought to be pretty darn fine whereas others have been described in not-so-favourable terms — such as cheap knock-offs for the really good stuff.

There's no denying that a $2 bottle of wine will have its tells (unless you're down to your gazillionth drink of the night), but there are ways to mask its more unpleasant flavors and make the drink more palatable. One of the best ways to do so is to chill your Two Buck Chuck before you drink it, and you can do that in less than an hour. Wrap the Two Buck Chuck in a wet cloth and pop it in the freezer for half an hour — that's all you need to do to make the budget wine taste better. This is because cooling wine to 45 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit takes away the nasty burn that is so often a tell of cheap alcohol. Chilling also subdues the wine's flavors, and while you wouldn't want that to happen in an expensive bottle of fine wine, it works out superbly when you want to mask the harshness of your Two Buck Chuck.

Don't forget to let the wine breathe

Chilling is one way to make a Two Buck Chuck pass off as something more exquisite, but it's not the only way: Aeration will massively help too. Wine bottles are tightly packed in cramped crates until they are opened, which means they go for months without seeing a lick of oxygen. This lack of oxygen leaves enough room for sulfur compounds to grow and leave a foul odor in the wine. By letting the wine breathe, you're letting these sulfur compounds and bad smells evaporate while also helping the wine oxidize. This will subdue the wine's acidity and eliminate any unpleasant flavors lingering in the drink, allowing more nuanced notes and aromas to breathe and bloom. Aeration will also take the sharp edge of the tannins off — that feeling of sandpaper-like dryness and bitter astringency that often laces cheap wines.

You can aerate the Two Buck Chuck by letting it sit in a decanter for 15 to 30 minutes before putting it away in a refrigerator to chill. If you don't have a decanter or have forgotten to air the wine before chilling it, fret not: Pour the wine into a glass, hold it by the stem, and give it a few swirls. That should aerate it enough to do the trick! Churning the wine in a blender for half a minute is another excellent hack that can make your Two Buck Chuck taste like finely aged wine.

Use these add-ins to upgrade Two Buck Chucks

Your wine is chilled and aerated — but what if it still tastes like, well, a Two Buck Chuck anyway? It's time to spike the vino! The first solution is to introduce citrus to the wine. Lemon juice, for example, will add brightness and balance the flavors of the otherwise flat and bland wine. It's also an excellent excuse to whip up a pitcher of sangria and lace it with brandy for a more flavourful drink.

If the Two Buck Chuck is still overly bitter, a more obvious solution is to sweeten it with sugar. While regular sugar, stevia, and simple syrup are all acceptable, a better way to add sweetness would be to use grape juice, preferably the unfermented kind that wouldn't change the wine's flavor too much. Diluting wine with a top-up of carbonated drinks such as soda is another excellent idea, as carbonation can mask unpleasant flavors in a wine too.

If experimenting with the wine itself isn't your thing, consider reverse pairing them with food. A sharp cheese will make your tastebuds forget about the sharpness of a harsh wine, and if it smells burnt and smoky, pair it with equally smoky foods like grilled meats. Consider serving mushrooms if it's a red Two Buck Chuck or plan for a spicier meal if it's a too-sweet wine — you'll be amazed by how much of an influence the right food can have on the taste of your wine.