Wine lovers have a lot to celebrate. The calendar is dotted with days devoted to particular wines. International Malbec Day. International Grenache Day. The list goes on and on. They are all great in that they help us both celebrate wine and remember its incredible diversity.
But the greatest wine holiday of them all IMHO is Open That Bottle Night, which is celebrated on the last Saturday of February each year (that’s February 26 in 2022). The idea, according to John Brecher and Dorothy Gaiter, who invented the occasion when they were wine columnists for the Wall Street Journal, is to ferret out some of the wines that you have squirreled away to open on some indeterminant special occasion and open them up to enjoy now. Ferret? Squirrel? What are you waiting for?
Or, as Orson Welles might have said in one of the old Paul Masson television commercials, we will drink no wine until its time. It’s time now!
Sue and I take turns picking a bottle for our OTBN celebration — the choice often driven by the memories the bottle holds as much as the wine itself. This year we are remembering our trip to the cradle of wine, Georgia, where I spoke at the first United Nations World Tourism Organization wine tourism conference back in 2016.
At one point the conference paused to visit the Alaverdi Monastery, which has been producing traditional wines since 1011. We surveyed the monastery and toured the marani (cellar) with its clay qvevri vessels, which are buried in the ground in the traditional way. I was surprised and delighted when I was called aside to receive a gift from the archbishop — the bottle of the monastery’s golden Rkatsiteli that we will uncork on OTBN 2022.
I remember tasting this golden wine and being moved. Here is Tim Atkin’s tasting note for an earlier vintage. I guess he was moved, too.
This is the wine that first won me over to the charms of the qvevri – the most astoundingly complex nose of tea leaves, baked apples, jasmine, herbs and plum compote (and bear in mind my description does not remotely do it justice). Very much an amber/orange style, with chewy but perfectly ripe tannins – and yet the fruit shines through effortlessly. Outstanding.
Inspired by the choice of wine, Sue has announced that she will pair it with homemade Khachapuri, which is sometimes described as a Georgian cheese bread. If you’ve ever had Khachapuri, however, you know that description doesn’t really do it justice.
Sue plans to riff on the King Arthur Flour recipe for Khachapuri, which substitutes ingredients readily available here in the United States for some of the Georgian originals.
The food and wine will be great in themselves, I’m sure, but more important will be the memories of people and places that they will inspire.
Those are our OTBN plans for this year. What bottle will you open on February 26? What memories will be uncorked. Please share your thoughts using the Comments function below.
Cheers to Dottie and John, who gave us Open That Bottle Night and to everyone who celebrates it in 2022!
Here’s a photo Sue took of the wine — remember it is a white wine! I know it looks dark in the decanter, but it really had amber notes in the glass. And it held our attention for a couple of hours as we tracked its development, An experience to remember