How to Make Red Wine Taste Less Bitter

what causes bitterness in red wine - explanation - how to make red wine taste less bitter

If you’re not a frequent wine drinker, or making the shift from sports drinkes or soda pop to the world of wine, the occasional bitter sip can be a bit surprising.

To make your wine less bitter, add 1/8th of a teaspoon (~.5 grams) of sugar at a time to your glass. Swirl the wine to mix in the sugar. Taste it. Keep adding 1/8th of a teaspoon at a time until it’s no longer bitter tasting for you.

Here’s what you need to know about bitterness in wine and how to make your wine less bitter.

What Causes Bitterness in Wine?

Alcohol, ethanol more specifically, is bitter. You’re likely to perceive greater bitterness in higher alcohol wines (13%+).

Underripe tannins can cause bitterness in wine, too. Tannins come from grape skins, grape seeds, and grape stems. 

Helpful Tip: Check out this post that will help you figure out if your wine is bitter or astringent. Two different things, but we often get them confused.

How Do You Taste Bitterness in Red Wine?

You’re probably going to taste bitterness in your red wine right after you swallow.

You’ll feel the burn of the alcohol in your throat and chest, and then perceive the bitterness on the back of your tongue.

Helpful Tip: Not all red wines are good candidates for new wine drinkers (I’m looking at you, Nebbiolo). So, I put together this helpful post on great red wine options for beginners. Go check it out.

Is All Dry Red Wine Bitter?

No, all dry red wines aren’t bitter. If you open a bottle or are tasting a wine that is bitter, this is a reflection of the winemaking, not wine in general.

What Does It Mean If a Red Wine Is Bitter?

red wine swirling - how to make red wine taste less bitter

If you taste bitterness in your wine after you swallow, it means that the wine isn’t well made.

Well-made wines should never taste bitter.

You should have lingering flavors from the fruit that stay in your mouth for 30 seconds to a several minutes after you swallow.

If all you taste after you swallow your wine is bitterness, then the wine isn’t well made.

Helpful Tip: Go find a different bottle (or sweeten it).

How to Make a Red Wine Less Bitter

how to make red wine taste less bitter - add sugar

Many entry-level red wines actually have a sweetening component added to them to make them taste less bitter.

You can replicate this winemaking technique at home if you have a bitter red wine.

Here’s how to make your red wine less bitter:

  1. Start by adding 1/8th of a teaspoon (~.5 grams) at a time to your glass.
  2. Add the sugar and then swirl the wine to mix in the sugar.
  3. Take a sip.
  4. If it’s still too dry, add another 1/8th of a teaspoon (¼ tsp. total)
  5. Mix it in well
  6. Take another sip and repeat if needed.

Keep adding small amounts of sugar until your red wine tastes the way that you want it to taste. 

Helpful Wine Tip: As you sip your sweetened wine, rub your lips together. They should have a viscous, almost slippery texture to them. This is from the sugar. Any wines that have sugar will give your lips this textural feeling. Neat!

The other thing that will happen to your red wine as you add sugar is that it will begin to feel heavier in your mouth.

As you add sugar, you’re changing the wine’s body, making it feel fuller and more rounded.

How to Make a Full Bottle of Red Wine Less Bitter

If you have a bottle of wine that’s too bitter for you, do this:

  1. Pour off ½ cup (100 ml) of the wine
  2. Mix in ½ teaspoon (3 grams) of sugar into the wine until dissolved in the 1/2 cup
  3. Pour the wine back into the bottle and mix gently.
  4. You can experiment by adding more sugar ½ tsp at a time if the wine’s still too bitter for you.

If you use this strategy to make your wine taste less bitter, plan on drinking your wine within 2 days. Mixing the wine up like this will add oxygen and cause it to lose freshness faster.

Helpful Tip: Check out this helpful article on how long wines stay fresh.

Thirsty for More?

wine tasting lineup - how to make red wine taste less bitter

Check out this post on how to taste red wine tannins. A 30-second tasting tip that’s fun to practice every time you open a new bottle of red wine.

And here’s that link again that will help you figure out if your wine is bitter or astringent. Two different things, but we often get them confused.

Dolcetto vs Barbera: Comparison Chart

Dolcetto vs Barbera: Comparison Chart

Dolcetto Wine Guide

Dolcetto Wine Guide

Aglianico: A Comprehensive Guide

Aglianico: A Comprehensive Guide