Monday, February 13, 2012
Storing special wines for special times? Don't wait, pour it now!
Wall Street Journal readers know that the Friday edition contains the On Wine column that is co-authored—on an alternating weekly basis—by Lettie Teague and Jay McInerney. Topics cover a wide variety of subjects—profiles of prominent personalities, reviews of high quality appellations, tastings and recommendations, plus other random observations from the two accomplished wine writers.
In 2010 they took over that column from wine writing couple Dorothy Gaiter and John Beecher who co-authored it as Tastings for twelve years. In their final article on December 25, 2009, they offered their personal perspective on The Mysterious Heart of Deliciousness, subtitled Trust Yourself. Taking direct aim at those who rate wines on the 100 point scale, they said, “Too many people have come to believe that there is some sort of objective truth about every wine. This is nonsense.” Their conclusion: the greatest wine experiences are deeply personal and have zero to do with another person’s numerical rating.
It’s hard to disagree with them, for if you’ve ever been in a group wine tasting, then you have noticed opinions range widely, and there is typically little if any consensus. Moreover, one person’s 95 rating could be another’s 85, and, interestingly, both would be correct in their differing assessment of the same wine. The former might appreciate the abundant tannins and their role in the wine’s prospective long term aging. The latter would not, for he/she might prefer something softer to drink right now, and those same astringent tannins would preclude such near term dining enjoyment. Also, when consumed with food, wine assumes a completely different profile, no matter the critic’s rating.
Beyond that observation, one of Gaiter and Brecher’s more noteworthy contributions to American wine lore (and enjoyment) is their creation of Open That Bottle Night (OTBN). Throughout their career they received numerous questions from readers about a particular bottle’s value, its aging possibilities as well as the optimum time to drink it. Gaiter and Brecher knew that virtually every wine drinker has at least one special wine stored somewhere, in anticipation of the perfect occasion. With years of experience, it was clear to them that the perfect moment seldom occurred. For many that special wine eventually aged into decline, and consequently, a potentially memorable evening was missed.
With that in mind, they published a column in 1999 proposing the last Saturday in February as Open That Bottle Night, and recommended that readers bring their special bottle out of hiding and enjoy it now rather than later. Readers were advised to research its special qualities and reflect on the implications of how they came to acquire it; also, to enjoy the wine without agonizing about what might have been had they opened it sooner, or waited longer. They were also invited to write the WSJ and share that evening’s experience, which they did by the hundreds. With February’s last Saturday almost upon on, give OTBN some thought. Rescue that dusty collector’s item in the rear of your clothes closet, invite some friends for dinner, and enjoy it with appropriate food. It just might develop into a memorable, delicious and deeply personal wine experience.