Anthony Gismondi on Wine
Thursday, February 23 2023

Open That Bottle Night

By: Anthony Gismondi
What are you waiting for?

Dorothy J Gaiter and John Brecher conceived and wrote The Wall Street Journal's wine column, "Tastings," from 1998 to 2010.

While both have distinguished careers in journalism at The Miami Herald, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal, they have written about wine at length expressly for consumers since 1973.

They are well-known for their books and many appearances on Martha Stewart's television show, but perhaps their greatest gift to the wine world is as the creators of the annual international "Open That Bottle Night", a celebration of wine and friendship.

The couple founded OTBN in 1999 for a simple reason: "When we started writing about wine, the question we received most often was "I have this one special bottle that I got on vacation (or at my wedding, or at an auction…) When do I open it?" Our answer was always: NOW! But we realized it's not that easy. Sometimes, the longer we save a bottle "for a special occasion," the bigger the special occasion has to become and the memories and joy inside that bottle get trapped forever."

That's why they set a specific date – the last Saturday of February, to focus wine drinkers around the globe on opening that bottle. Of course, they still think the best time to open any special bottle is today, but they also recognize that just about everyone needs a shove from time to time.

How right they are. I could be the poster boy for OTBN. I can count dozens of wines I should be opening, and there is no good reason not to do it. The question remains what are we all waiting for? There are so many excuses one can conjure up to save that bottle for a better time, but if the pandemic has taught us anything, that kind of thinking is, at best, dated, if not just plain dumb.

Frequently most of the bottles that end up being opened have been kept far too long, usually under less-than-ideal storage conditions and suffer from sitting around where the temperature goes up and down with the seasons killing the wine. Lack of humidity is another issue that can shrink corks and lead to oxidation., or the cork itself disintegrates while you are opening it, leaving you with a coffee filter and cheesecloth to clean up the mess and get the wine to the table.

Dorothy, John and I know that in the end, it is often the story surrounding the wine that makes the night, not just the story of the wine. So, when I open an old wine for friends, experts or not, I ask them to take a sip and contemplate what they were doing the year the wine was made. I can assure you they are the best stories of all and often ones you have never heard. Ultimately, they make a much better lead into the final discussion about the wine provided by the owner.

The current angst about who is and who isn't drinking wine from Gen Z, the Millennials and Gen Xers to the Baby Boomers, has become a game that consultants and marketers play because most have failed to understand that wine has always been about the stories, the places, the people and their experiences. It involves everyone from well-informed critics to winemakers, historians, geographers, geologists, farmers, viticulturalist, retailers, collectors, sommeliers, writers and finally, the most important of all, the folks who buy wine.

But you can't get to the story if you don't open that bottle and share it among friends.

So the next time a friend or relative leaves you a special bottle, your job isn't to investigate how much it is worth or where you can sell it. Instead, your task is to gather up some friends, pick a night and open that bottle for the greatest return of all  — enjoying what is inside the bottle among friends and telling the story of its origins.   

Listen to Anthony's discussion with Dorothy and John, recorded February 15, 2023 (podcast format): BC Food & Wine Radio Feb 15 Show

Read Dorothy and John's article which includes a story about Osoyoos resident Barrie McConachie Riesling or Marionberry: Oh, the Dilemmas of OTBN

Written By: ag
Anthony Gismondi
Anthony Gismondi

Anthony Gismondi is a Canadian wine journalist and one of North America's most influential voices in wine. For over 30 years, he has been the wine columnist for The Vancouver Sun. The twice-weekly column is distributed across Canada through the Postmedia Network to millions of readers. In addition, Anthony hosts the BC Food & Wine Radio Show, broadcast in 25 markets across B.C. and available as a podcast on major platforms. He launched Gismondionwine.com in 1997, attracting one million monthly users from 114 countries. It continues to be a valuable resource full of tasting notes, intelligent wine stories and videos for the trade and consumers. Conversations with wine personalities are available on his  YouTube Channel.