Open That Bottle

by Anne Deeter Gallaher

March 03, 2017

It’s Time to Celebrate “Open That Bottle Night”

The last Saturday in February is known around the world as Open That Bottle Night. 

I am no wine aficionado—not even close—but I always loved reading the Tastings column in The Wall Street Journal by husband-and-wife wine connoisseurs and journalists Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher. Each week from 1998 to 2010, they shared personal stories and experiences from vineyards, wine notes, and food pairings. A few times I even cut out their column and took it into the wine store to look for the bottles they reviewed. 

Be sure to reach out to the wine specialists at your favorite wine stores like Red Spirits & Wines and Frugal MacDoogal to help. These people are encyclopedias of information about wines, winemakers, vineyards, wine notes, and best of all—what to buy at a great price point.


To commemorate a few special occasions in my life, I’ve been gifted elegant bottles of champagnes and wines. I knew that the giver had spent time and thought in choosing what to give me, and I would carefully store these bottles in a safe place.  

One was gifted to me from a client who was celebrating my business milestone of buying my first commercial real estate purchase. She sent me a bottle of Dom Perignon. The packaging was elegant and the gift was very meaningful. Knowing the special effort made, I hesitated to even consider opening the bottle. Instead, I felt my husband and I should save it for that perfect occasion. 

But that’s exactly why the Tastings columnists invented “Open That Bottle Night”—to release all those special-occasion bottles from their wine prisons. In 2000, Gaiter and Brecher decided that the last Saturday of February would be the day that people should gather with friends or family, celebrate simply or splendidly, and enjoy Open That Bottle Night.

The premise is simple—life is too short to save special bottles of wine for special occasions. Life itself is a special occasion; friends are a special occasion; family is a special occasion. What are we waiting for?

On New Year’s Eve 2015, my husband and I opened that bottle of Dom Perignon. It was perfection. We reminisced about the gift, the memory, and toasted the year ahead.

Every year, two good friends and I go on vacation. We are neighbors, our children have gone through school and Scouting together, and we share wonderful memories from the toddler years through grandparenting. One year, we went to Asheville, North Carolina, and we toured the extraordinary Biltmore Estate. I let them talk me into the architectural tour of the mansion which took us outside on the rooftop walkway, several stories high, and face-to-face with the hand-carved grotesques and gargoyles! 

During our stay, we each bought several bottles of a Limited Release Petite Sirah. Every time I see that bottle on my shelf, I think of our wonderful stories. I don’t even know if the wine is any good, but the memories are priceless. 

Some of you were gifted a special bottle on your wedding day, or when you closed a big business deal, or when you received a promotion, or when your child was born. On Saturday, let’s gather to share stories, reminisce, and enjoy the bottles we’ve been saving. Don’t worry about the price of the bottle—let the focus be about fellowship and stories more than the complexity or expense of the wine. 

Is there a chance that the wine you’ve been saving is over the hill? It might be, but ask your favorite wine specialist for some background on your specific vintage and some ideas for properly opening older bottles. Here are some tips for a great Open That Bottle Night celebration:

  1. Invite friends to join you for Open That Bottle Night at your home or at a favorite BYOB restaurant. Encourage everyone to bring a special bottle they’ve been saving, or they can bring a new bottle that has a special meaning to them—the wine they served at their wedding or a favorite vineyard.
  2. Most bottles of wine are meant for immediate consumption, but a few age well. Cabernets can benefit from at least an hour of breathing. One caveat: don’t decant an older bottle and walk away for a few hours. Check on it every half hour to make sure it’s not getting too much air. 
  3. Don’t be discouraged if the wine seems bitter at first. Unless it tastes like vinegar, let it settle and try it again in an hour.
  4. The star of the evening should be the stories surrounding your wines—what year was it purchased or gifted, what was the occasion, who gave it to you. 
  5. Bring a back-up bottle of wine just in case the bottle you open is undrinkable. 

February 25 seems like a perfect time to put our devices down for a few hours, invite good friends or even new friends over to share lots of laughter, stories, and memories bottled in the wines waiting to be opened.