Let’s say you have a bottle of an excellent wine. Do you know how to make it better than it is? I guarantee you this works every time, so listen carefully. You share it with a friend. Yes, that makes any excellent wine into an amazing one. Works like a charm.
Saturday, February 25th was Open That Bottle Night (OTBN for short) – the night when there is no bottle in your cellar which is off limits. If you are not familiar with OTBN, you can read more here. What made my OTBN twice as special was the visit by Oliver and his wife Nina.
For me, the decisions around wine are never easy. I typically buy wine in the single bottle quantities (okay, maybe four at the most, when I need to get a free shipping from WTSO) – thus any bottle can qualify as a special one. As an exception to my long and almost painful decision process, for this OTBN I had a very clear idea – 1982 Olga Raffault Chinon, of which I had a single bottle. The bottle out of the wine fridge and ready for the prime time.
This is what I was looking at after cutting the top foil:
As you can tell, this is not very encouraging. However, if you like older wines and get an opportunity to open them, you know that the state of the top of the cork is nothing to fret about. More often than not, behind most terrible looking mildew there is a delicious wine.
As this was 35 years old wine, I didn’t want to take any chances and used the two-prong opener to pull the cork out. This turned out to be an unnecessary precaution – while cork looked red throughout, it was perfectly firm and came out as a single piece without any crumbling – here is our OTBN corks collection, the red one is the one I’m talking about:
And for the wine… what can I tell you… This 1982 Olga Raffault “Les Picasses” Chinon, Loire looked perfectly fresh in the glass – not a sign of losing color. Here are the two glasses, one is with 1982 Cabernet Franc, the second one is with 2014 – care to guess which glass contains 1982?
Yes, the one on the left is with 1982 wine, but I believe you would agree that the color shows perfectly young. The nose and the palate were an incredible study in Cabernet Franc flavor profile 101. The wine opened full of bell pepper – both on the nose and the palate. In about 10 minutes, the bell pepper was gone – and what was left was pure, unadulterated black currant – stunning, full flavorful black currant, also known as cassis if we want to use traditional French terminology. The wine had perfect structure, firm, with fresh acidity, almost crisp – and loads and loads of black currant. This was truly a treat.
We followed with a beautiful rendition of Ruchè – 2012 Poggio Ridente Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG San Marziano (organic grapes). Ruchè is a little known red grape, cultivated in the Monferrato region in Piedmont, capable of making very concentrated wines. This particular bottle, brought by Oliver and Nina directly from Italy, was fresh and open, with nicely restrained palate with mostly herbal flavors, and a twist – dried mango undertones. Nina was the one to identify the dried mango, while I was desperately trying to figure out what that strange flavor was – but that was a spot-on descriptor. An outstanding wine by all means.
Our next wine was 1989 Kaseler Nies’chen Riesling Auslese Mosel-Saar-Ruwer. No issues with the cork (makes me happy). Still fresh, clean light golden color (28-years old wine!). The nose and the palate were singing in unison here, and the music was simple – peaches and apricots. Slightly underripe peaches and fresh, plump apricots. The balance of sweetness and acidity was impeccable – the wine was fresh and alive, without any sign of age. Wow.
As an added bonus, the grapes for this wine were harvested in November of 1989 – the year and a month when Berlin Wall was demolished – and this is what the label of this wine commemorates.
Our OTBN night didn’t finish there. You would expect us to go to something nice and sweets after such a beautiful Riesling, right? In the conversation, it came out that Oliver doesn’t like Tempranillo wines. Being a Spanish wine buff, I had to fix that immediately, so I had to pull out the big guns. 2001 La Rioja Alta Viña Ardanza Rioja Reserva Especial was absolutely beautiful from the get-go – cedar box and eucalyptus on the nose, soft and gentle cherries on the palate, fresh, round. I hope I made Oliver a convert – but will see about that the next time we will meet.
There you are, my friends. A stunning OTBN with great wines and great company. Hope you enjoyed your OTBN as much as we did – feel free to share your OTBN stories below. Cheers!
I don’t like making decisions. Here, I said it. Not around the wines for sure. But I have a justification for this indecisiveness – and I’m sure many oenophiles will attest to the same. You see, I like to drink aged wines. Despite popular notion from many wine professionals that people don’t understand what is good for them and should drink their wines young (here is the latest piece from Steve Heimoff on the subject), I still like my wines with a little age on them. Heck no, I actually like them well aged. But most wines in my cellar are in the single quantities (yes, that means One bottle) – therefore, if I open it, I will not be able to find out if it will improve with age. As you can imagine, this can lead to many, many “indecisive moments”.
So for the people like myself, Open That Bottle Night was invented. I will not go again into the history of the OTBN – I already wrote about it extensively here. But the event itself really makes you to take decisions and “just do it”.
Yes, the decision making is frustrating. But once decision is made, frustration is out and anticipation and excitement are in. It would be so interesting to understand how the mind (subconscious?) arrives at a decision where there are lots of possibilities, all promising similarly happy outcome (in the end of the day, no matter what bottle you will open, as long as it is not spoiled, you will still be happy – with a 99% chance). Someone really have to study how the oenophile’s mind works. So in this mysterious way, all of a sudden the decision came to open two of the Spanish wines I had for a little while. To be absolutely honest – first I decided on those two wines, then I started figuring out what was making them special – and these wines are special.
How special? Both wines were made by pioneers, and they represent true passion and vision which makes winemaking so unique. The first wine was called Martinsancho, made out of the grape called Verdejo in Rueda, Spain. Martinsancho is the name of the vineyard in Rueda, where Verdejo had been planted since 17th century. But you see, in the mid 1970s, the whole size of the vineyard was only 1 acre, and it was pretty much the last of Verdejo left in Spain, due to natural (phylloxera) and man made (political, economic) causes. Angel Rodriguez had a passion, vision and tenacity to preserve that vineyard, replant the original cuttings on the 25 acres, and literally single-handedly restart Verdejo production in Rueda. Angel Rodriguez’s hard work was even honored by the King of Spain Juan Carlos.
How was the wine? One word – delicious. One of the very best Spanish white wines I ever had. Here are the notes:
2009 Ángel Rodrígues Martinsancho Verdejo Rueda DO (13% ABV, $17, 100% Verdejo)
C: light golden, very pretty
N: restrained, touch of grass, minerality, almonds
P: great deal of finesse, it is smooth, silky, good acidity, medium to full body, elegant
V: 8+, great world class wine
Our second started with this view once the top foil was removed:
From my experience, this doesn’t mean the wine is spoiled (at least so far it never happened), but it still makes you uneasy – there are no substitutes in this game. This was the only hiccup though, the wine itself was unaffected.
Similar to the first wine, this one was also a product of a passion, a dream. Clara Concejo Mir inherited the vineyard from her grandfather Mario. Located at the high altitude of 7,750 feet, this is first vineyard in teh Ribera del Duero region; the vineyard is also adjacent to the vineyards of legendary Vega Sicilia. While Tempranillo is a king in Ribera del Duero (often called Tinto Fino), Clara also had a vision to add Cabernet Sauvignon to her wine which she called Mario (yes, in honor of her grandfather). She also had perseverance to lobby the regulatory body of Ribera del Duero to allow officially put Cabernet Sauvignon on the label of the Ribera del Duero wine. The rest of this can be subsided to a moan which you will produce upon taking a sip of this wine.
2008 Vegaclara Mario Ribera Del Duero DO (13.5% ABV, $25, 77% Tempranillo, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13 month in oak – 33% French, 33% American, 33% Hungarian)
C: dark garnet
N: fresh berries, touch of barnyard, eucalyptus, black currant
P: yum! (is that a good descriptor?) silky smooth, polished, great depth and concentration, black currant, dusty mouthfeel, flawless, perfect balance
V: 9, a wine of an outstanding finesse
Now that I told you about wonderful wines and passion we experienced, I want to give you a glimpse into what the others were drinking. First of all, I was very happy to see an increased number of posts about OTBN all over the social media – or as at least it seemed as an increased number of posts to me. And then over the course of the week I inundated lots of people on Twitter, keep asking them what are they going to drink (and making sure they will remember about OTBN) – I hope it didn’t cost me any followers, but oh well, it is a good cause. So below is a small collection of tweets plus some blogs posts about the OTBN wines, in no particular order:
Wine Raconteur wrote about the wines he will not be opening for OTBN:
Margot Davies: (by the way, I would really love to try that wine)
These are the snippets of conversations I had about #OTBN – I’m sure I missed some too. So what did you end up opening for OTBN and did you like your choice after the cork was pulled out? I would love to know – you know where the comments section is.
Before we part, I want to remind you that actually you have the power to make any night an Open That Bottle Night – no need to wait a year to open That Bottle. Just do it! Cheers!
Open That Bottle Night (OTBN for short) is an [international] phenomena created by Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher, the writers of the hugely popular “Tastings” wine column in Wall Street Journal for more than 10 years. Once inundated with the questions “what is the right time to open this [special] bottle”, they designated last Saturday of February as the day when oenophiles should really pull the
plug cork on that bottle which was stored until the “special day” would arrive. Only most of the oenophiles have a problem deciding if today is already special, or not special enough.
With the idea to encourage oenophiles to finally reach for That Bottle, Dorothy and John invented OTBN back in 1999. From there on, the OTBN was steadily increasing in popularity not only in the US, but around the world, with people getting together for the special OTBN parties and dinners, and restaurants offering discounts and special menus.
Last November, I had a pleasure of meeting Dorothy and John at the Piper-Heidsieck Vin Clairs tasting in New York, which I attended together with Jeff, better known as The Drunken Cyclist. As part of conversation with Dorothy we also touched on the subject of OTBN. To my surprise, I got an email from her two weeks ago asking for my thoughts on selecting the wine for upcoming OTBN, which will take place this coming Saturday, February 27th. I gave her somewhat of a mumbling answer, which was included into her OTBN 2016 post in the Grape Collective Magazine, together with the similar input from Jeff.
Let me tell you why you and every other oenophile should take part in OTBN and open That Bottle now. Two reasons:
- Wine might not be any good
- You might not be any good
I’m not trying to be overly dramatic or use scare tactics of any sort. This is simply what is called “life”.
Think about that prized wine bottle. May be you brought it from your honeymoon trip or anniversary trip, great cruise or an amazing vacation in the vineyards. Since it made it to your house, was it ideally stored? Was it Barolo, Bordeaux or Chablis, which can age great without much regard to the producer or a vintage? Or was it delicious Rosé from Provence, sumptuous red Cotes du Rhone or a playful Vouvray? Chances are, even in ideal conditions, those wines will not last for too long. The whole idea behind those “special” wines is that they are connected to our emotions and memories, and when we drink them we get to re-live the joyous moment of the past – but you do want the wine to match the taste as you remember – and if it doesn’t, well…
The second issue is also a problem. Take a look at Jeff’s post about meeting Dorothy and OTBN, and take a look at the source of his second possible choice of the OTBN wine, the ’85 Inglenook – he got it from someone who could no longer drink wine due to the medical reasons – and that person was devastated about it, as any of us would under his circumstances. Your health can change, your palate can change – do you really want to risk the joy of having a great glass of wine by not been able to find the “ideal moment”?
Still undecided? Think about it this way. Opening of That Bottle for the OTBN is a win-win, it always is. First, you get to drink the wine you always wanted to drink. Second, with opening of the bottle you are actually not losing anything – on contrary, you are gaining a great experience. If the wine is good, you are transported to the past, you get to re-live “the moment” once again – and create a new memory for the future. If the wine is not good, or not as you recall – you still create a new memory, and you can move on to your next “special bottle” (pleeease, don’t tell me you had one and only one, okay?).
Don’t know if I succeeded in convincing you, or if you even needed to be convinced, but I hope you will decide and open that special bottle, no matter what makes it special. And then I also hope that you will leave me a comment and tell me what you are planning to open or what you had for OTBN, as I’m dying to know.
As for me, still need to make up my mind – there are lots of choices, so I’m sure it will be a last minute decision, but rest assured that the special bottle will be open – and I promise to tell you all about it. Enjoy the OTBN, and don’t overthink it – just do it! Cheers!
Just a quick reminder to all the wine friends, oenophiles, aspiring sommeliers and all the other folks who find wine to be an indispensable part of their lives – OTBN is here, so get your thinking hat on and go visit your cellar (those without a cellar can settle for the visit to the good wine store).
Open That Bottle Night, usually abbreviated as OTBN, is a movement created by Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher, writers of the Wall Street Journal’s Tastings column. In the year 2000, they declared last Saturday in February to be a special night for the wine lovers – it should be the night when that special, cherished, admired, preserved, treasured bottle gets right on the table – and gets opened. The wine needs to be enjoyed – as the life is unpredictable, we should really create those special moments in the “now”, instead of waiting for them for the eternity.
Since its invention, OTBN became an international phenomenon, celebrated all over the world. This upcoming Saturday, February 28, 2015, is the last Saturday of February – so it is the time to get that special bottle ready and open. I don’t think you need any special instructions, but in case you feel like you need someone to tell you what to do, here is the link to the Wall Street Journal article which will give you the detailed instructions on how to enjoy OTBN.
I know you are hoarding more than one special bottle – it is the time to put at least one of them to the good use. If you care to share what you will be opening, this what the comment section is for. Open That Bottle! Cheers!