It’s time to open that bottle again

  • Fine thinking: former Wall Street Journal wine columnists Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher invented Open That Bottle Night in 2000

    Fine thinking: former Wall Street Journal wine columnists Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher invented Open That Bottle Night in 2000

  • Special treat: the idea behind Open That Bottle Night was to open something rare or very special, probably from your own cellar

    Special treat: the idea behind Open That Bottle Night was to open something rare or very special, probably from your own cellar

OTBN stands for Open That Bottle Night, an event established in 2000 by two Wall Street Journal staff members, that takes place on the last Saturday in February each year.

The idea behind it was to open something rare or very special, probably from your own cellar. This past weekend, I enjoyed a 1991 Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon, but I would hazard a guess that most folks are not collectors and so I would like to suggest a “golden oldie” from our Burrows Lightbourn collection.

At ten years, many fine cabernet sauvignons are ready to drink, but, at 20, they can be quite intriguing. In May of 2002, our Beringer Napa Valley 1999 Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon received this review from Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar: “Ruby-red. Highly nuanced nose combines currant, plum, smoky oak, minerals, liquorice and mint. Wonderfully sweet, sappy and dense. The most complex of these ’99 cabernets, with enticing flavours of currant, minerals and brown spices. Very long, slow-building finish features big but sweet and fine tannins. Suave and impressive.”

Move on 13 years to July of 2015 and Vinous says this of the same wine: “Good, full-medium red. Warm, inviting, highly perfumed aromas of currant and curry powder. Juicy and sharply delineated, conveying good verve to the dense flavours of spices, herbs and green today. Not a fruity style, but boasts lovely mineral lift. This will make a very flexible food wine.” $136.15.

Note how the first review mentions “highly nuanced” fruit and the second says that it is not a fruit style, and this is exactly what happens as some characteristics fade and tertiary notes develop. We can offer you this Beringer wine from 1990, 1992, 1995, 1996, 2012 and 2013.

If you are just deciding to start your own collection, the 2013 vintage in Napa Valley was classic and here is what Robert Parker thinks of the Beringer Private Reserve 2013: “97/100. The wine could benefit from seven to ten years cellaring, and probably last 30 to 40. When all is said and done, this is an instant classic. The wine is full-bodied with oodles of crème de cassis, pen ink, graphite and baking spices. It is multidimensional, layered, and one of the all-time great Beringer private reserves — and there have been many.” $180.90.

How about an experiment to show how cabernet sauvignon ages, and the influence of climate during different vintages? It does involve opening two bottles and we just happen to have the 2015 and 2010 Penfold’s Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon. Both fit the occasion. Each sells for $81.90.

I would open the younger wine to try first to enjoy this textbook example of multi-region, multi-vineyard blending with a core of ripe fruit supported by sensitive use of French and American oak.

Critic James Suckling rates it 93/100 and describes it in this way: “Screams cabernet and shows attractive leafy, cassis and mulberry fruits with some mint and florals also in the mix. There’s an air of freshness and poise here, smells even-handed and composed, the palate has a core of fine tannin with an exterior of more strident and deeper-set bolder tannins cutting the wine an impressive outline.”

In an Australian review, it rated 96/100 and the comment was: “The bouquet is utterly convincing, as is the genetic expression of cabernet sauvignon on the long, powerful, medium-bodied palate.” The winery suggests that the best drinking window is now until 2028.

In a second glass, pour a little of the 2010 and now taste them side by side. The older one is from a quite exceptional vintage that garnered 97/100 from Master of Wine Andrew Caillard who described it in this way: “Deep crimson. Beautifully defined dark berry, cassis, dark chocolate, violet, dried roses aromas. Seductive and opulent with superb crème de cassis, plum, blueberry flavours, fine chocolatey sweet tannins and savoury oak nuances. A brilliant wine that stands way above its price point.”

Penfold’s must think it quite exceptional as their suggested time to enjoy is between 2014 and 2038. The ability for long ageing is always the sign of a fine well-balanced wine. As the 2010 approaches ten years of age, you should find that the fruit and tannin are losing some of their initial intensity and you may even see a slight fading to brown, of the meniscus on the edge that clings to the glass.

If you have long-term wine storage, then you know that you often pick the very finest years knowing that these wines have a long life ahead of them. My vintage chart in the office only goes back to 1990, but the finest of all years since then, in St Emilion, happens to be 2005 and you surely would have put some aside. If not, you are in luck as we can offer you Château Les Grandes Murailles St Émilion Grand Cru 2005.

Grandes Murailles sources its fruit from a small two-hectare vineyard that is planted with 100 per cent merlot; 7,500 vines produce about 7,200 bottles. This is very small when you consider that even the great First Growths like Latour or Lafite can turn out up to 225,000 bottles. This wine stayed in 100 per cent new French oak for almost two years and although it can be enjoyed, depending on the vintage, between four and seven years of age, it is certainly peaking now. $87.95.

This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. E-mail or 295-0176. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554), Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355) and St George (York Street, 297-0409). Visit

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Published Feb 22, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Feb 21, 2019 at 11:42 pm)

It’s time to open that bottle again

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