Serious Grape: Celebrate 'Open That Bottle Night' Tomorrow

On Fridays, Deb Harkness of Good Wine Under $20 drops by with Serious Grape.


Tomorrow night (Saturday, February 28) is the 10th annual Open That Bottle Night.

If you've never heard of it before, Open That Bottle Night was started by two distinguished Wall Street Journal wine writers/critics, Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher. Once a year, they encourage all of us to dig out that bottle of wine we've been holding onto for a special occasion and open it up.

February 28, they argue, is the special occasion you've been waiting for.

There are many reasons we hold onto wine without drinking it. Sometimes, we find it intimidating because we know it was expensive. Sometimes, we find it curious because it comes from a region or is made with a grape we don't know very well. And sometimes, we don't open it because we imagine it will be better later.

The problem with all of these theories is we can end up fetishizing a wine rather than drinking it.

My most memorable disaster in this department was with a white Chateauneuf-du-Pape—the 1999 Chateau La Nerthe. I bought it in England, at my favorite London wine store, Berry Brothers and Rudd. I schlepped it home, then schlepped it again when I moved houses. "It's not ready to drink yet," I told myself on more than one occasion. Then, fatefully, I announced I was saving it for when I finished a book I was working on.

We all know how that ended.

The book took longer than I anticipated. I refused to give in and drink the wine. I finally opened it in 2006 and here's the tasting note: "Left it two years too long. It was amber in color, bitter and flat on the palate, no aromas. Oxidized."

The wine was only memorable because it was awful. Not exactly what I'd been hoping for.

Gaiter and Brecher want to save you and your wine from this fate. So they hereby give you permission to open that bottle of wine you've been pushing to the back of the closet and drink it. In their words, "The point is not to show off with a great bottle or necessarily open the most prestigious bottle in your house, but to uncork a wine that holds cherished memories, the bottle that—admit it—you will never open otherwise."

They've got some suggestions for how to choose the bottle, what to do if you are opening an older bottle of wine, and say you should have a backup bottle on hand in case your treasure is now undrinkable (as mine was).

Not sure you want to drink alone? There are Open That Bottle Night events taking place all over the country. And if you don't want to leave your apartment, you can participate in, or eavesdrop on, the special Twitter tasting, which will take place on the internet at 8 p.m.

What bottle will you be opening tomorrow night? Share your plans, and any wine pack-rat confessions.