Can’t take it with you, so savour Open That Bottle Night


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Seventeen (!) years of writing about wine and drinks have seen all manner of wine, beer and spirits cross my desk. Most are tasted for the purposes of this column, some for “research” purposes and occasionally, I’ll crack something open for simple enjoyment.

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Seventeen (!) years of writing about wine and drinks have seen all manner of wine, beer and spirits cross my desk. Most are tasted for the purposes of this column, some for “research” purposes and occasionally, I’ll crack something open for simple enjoyment.

But inevitably some products end up languishing out of sight and mind, tucked in a closet or wine rack — a hodgepodge of beverages lurking, often forgotten, in various dark corners of my house.

Forgotten, that is, until we had to empty the basement in advance of repairs and renovations following last spring’s flooding. Hauling all my belongings upstairs, I was reunited with all manner of dusty bottles whose contents may very well be over the hill.

This rediscovery reminded me of an annual event that’s the perfect occasion to cull any such horde of hooch — Open That Bottle Night.

Taking place on Feb. 25, Open That Bottle Night was conceived in 1999 by then-Wall Street Journal wine writers (yes, there was more than one!) Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher after numerous reader questions about inherited, cellared or recently discovered bottles of wine, and when they should be opened.

Their reply was always the same — open it right away. Their rationale was simple: don’t wait for a special event to open a bottle; create your own special occasion. They went on to christen the last Saturday of every February as Open That Bottle Night, encouraging folks to pop that cork (or twist that screw cap, as it were) no matter what the occasion — or for no occasion at all.

Now there are a few bottles I won’t be cracking open this Feb. 25. I have a couple of wines from each of my kids’ birth years, for example, that I’ll share with them when they turn 18. But otherwise pretty much everything’s fair game.

Why would I hang on any longer to a four-vintage vertical of Okanagan Valley Semillon, going back to 2015?

Yes, that rare bottle of 2010 Achaval Ferrer Malbec was near the top of some wine magazine’s best wines of the year back in the day, but what point is there in aging the dense Argentine red any further?

That inexpensive German Riesling in the pink cat-shaped bottle? Time to crack it open and see what it’s all about.

My beer stash is even more problematic. Sure, barleywine’s a higher-alcohol style of beer and has great aging potential, but should I still have bottles of Half Pints’ Burleywine dating back to… 2006-7? Should I continue cellaring three vintages (2013-15) of Unibroue’s Grande Réserve 17? In both cases, the answer is most certainly not.

Then there’s the expensive elephant in the room — the bottle of Château Mouton Rothschild from my birth year (let’s just say mid-1970s) that I dropped a few hundred bucks on at the Winnipeg Wine Festival gala dinner about 10 years ago. I meant to open it when I turned 40, then when I turned 45, but both birthdays have come and gone and the wine remains in the bottle. I’m now afraid to open it for fear of discovering I own a wildly expensive bottle of vinegar.

This Feb. 25, I’ve resolved to crack open a good portion of my stockpile of sippables — that’s what they were made for, after all. Plus, as the saying goes, you can’t take it with you — and I’m certainly not lugging all these bottles back down to the basement.

Twitter: @bensigurdson


Wines of the week

Monmousseau NV Crémant de Loire rosé (Loire Valley, France — around $28, private wine stores) Made from a blend of Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and l’Orbois grapes, this Loire Valley bubbly is pale pink in colour, offering strawberry, bread dough, raspberry candy, cranberry and subtle floral notes. It’s made in the traditional method used in Champagne, and as a result the bubbles are relatively fine, with beautiful (and mainly dry) red fruit, bread dough/brioche and lemon zest flavours shining through. Austere and elegant, particularly for the price. Available at The Pourium and The Winehouse. 4.5/5

Villa Maria 2021 Private Bin Pinot Gris (East Coast, New Zealand — $19.99, Liquor Marts and beyond) Made from a blend of parcels from vineyards on both of New Zealand’s main islands, this Pinot Gris retains a hint of the pinkish hue the grapes bring, with ripe pear, red apple, peach and subtle floral notes. It’s light-plus bodied and mainly dry, with just a touch of sweetness bolstering the ripeness in the tree fruit flavours and a lovely viscosity fleshing things out. 3.5/5

Terra d’Aligi 2017 Tatone (Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Italy — $19.99, Liquor Marts and beyond) Inky purple in colour, it has a lovely core of blackberry, violet, plum, tart cherry and blueberry aromas with a touch of spice from having spent 24 months in large Slavonian casks. It’s dry, full-bodied and juicy, with brambly blackberry and all manner of juicy dark fruits, a hint of mocha and lovely white pepper and black tea notes coming from subtle but grippy tannins before the medium-length finish (it’s 14 per cent alcohol). Drinking deliciously now (try chilling for 15 minutes), or tuck away for another two to three years. 4.5/5

Ben Sigurdson

Ben Sigurdson
Literary editor, drinks writer

Ben Sigurdson edits the Free Press books section, and also writes about wine, beer and spirits.

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