Open That Bottle Night: the Best Wine Holiday Ever!

If you love wine, chances are you’re keeping a special bottle in the back of your wine cellar (or, ahem! linen cupboard) that you’re saving for a special occasion. Maybe you brought it home from your first trip to Europe, or it was a graduation gift from dear, departed Aunt Florence. Or maybe it’s just expensive and you hate to…um…”just waste it.”

First, if by “wasting” the wine you mean drinking and enjoying it, read my Burgundy-stained lips: there is no such thing.

Secondly, and more importantly: THIS, friends, is the special occasion we’ve been waiting for.


This Saturday, February 27 – and every last Saturday in February – is “Open That Bottle Night.” Finally, you have a reason to crack that cherished bottle you’ve been hoarding.

The day was created in 1999 by two of my favorite wine writers, Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher, whose bestseller, The Wall Street Journal Guide to Wine, was the book that propelled me to learn more. Gaiter and Brecher penned the WSJ wine column, “Tastings,” for 12 years and saw firsthand the need to uncork those bottles and let the vino fulfill its destiny.

As versatile as fine wine is, it won’t last forever, and it can’t survive in difficult conditions. The bottles pictured above are part of a friend’s collection. A ’62 Richebourg or ’64 La Tache should be worth thousands of dollars. Unfortunately, these bottles weren’t stored in ideal circumstances, and they suffered. They may not even be drinkable now – we haven’t tried them, but I’m hoping for that invitation!

Let’s open a bottle Saturday that, for whatever reason, once dazzled. It doesn’t have to be the priciest bottle in your collection, but it should be memorable. Where were you when you bought it – on a special vacation, with a special person, or just standing alone in a place you never wanted to forget? What was your intention when you bought it? Make it a night for celebrating what your life has become – what you have become – since then.

Gaiter and Brecher offer these tips for making the most of the holiday:

  • Choose your bottle now, and stand it upright so the sediment will settle at the bottom.
  • If it’s an old bottle, the cork could be brittle. Be ready with a carafe and coffee filter so you can pour the wine without getting bits of cork in your glass.
  • Unless you have that old-cork problem, the authors recommend that you don’t decant an old bottle. Too much exposure to air might shock the wine and cause whatever fruit that’s left to dissipate.
  • If the wine has turned to vinegar, there’s no hope. Have another bottle handy and toast your special bottle and the memories it created. And sometime in the next week, enjoy your expensive salad dressing.
  • Why not host a small dinner party that night? Ask your guests to bring their own special bottles, and share the stories behind them.
  • Lastly, your old wine might very well have a bad taste. Don’t pour it down the drain right away; let it sit for a while and see if it comes into its real character. Although it’s true that too much air might damage it, you might find that half an hour in the glass can bring back its best qualities (though probably not all of the fruit).

I’d love to hear about your special choices for Open That Bottle Day; please let me know in the Comments below. If you click on the Follow tab (lower right corner of your screen), you can read everyone’s remarks, and future BigSexyReds posts, by email.

Wine Lingo of the Day: Ullage = the amount by which a container, such as a bottle or cask, falls short of being full. In the bottles pictured above, the ullage is extensive due to evaporation.