Are you ready? It’s almost time to celebrate OTBN (Open That Bottle Night)!
Created in 2000 by Wall Street Journal Tastings columnists Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher, Open That Bottle Night is held on the last Saturday of February each year and is the night to enjoy those bottles of wine you and your friends have been lovingly saving for just a bit too long.
According to the Wall Street Journal, “whether it’s the only bottle in the house or one bottle among thousands, just about all wine lovers have that very special wine that they always mean to open, but never do… On OTBN,… thousands of bottles all over the world are released from prison and enjoyed.” Don’t you just love that description?
Having celebrated OTBN for the last five years, I have to say that it is one of the most fun nights of the year. A telltale sign of the fun is that within 24 hours of sending out my email invitation this year, I received most of my RSVP responses. As I’m sure you know, most invitation-based events practically require you to pull teeth before you can get a response.
Recommendations for a Great OTBN
While all of my OTBN celebrations have been incredibly fun, the earlier years weren’t quite as well managed as the later years. So I thought I would share a few recommendations that I think will contribute to your having a WINEderful OTBN celebration.
- Limit the number of bottles. Even if you’re spitting, it’s really hard to taste more than 10 bottles. So if you’re having 5 couples over, tell each couple to bring two bottles. If you’re having 10 couples over, tell each couple to bring a single bottle. Keep in mind that a few people won’t be able to control themselves and will bring extra bottles.
- Make sure the bottles you taste have good stories associated with them. In your invitation, let people know that if they don’t have an old bottle, they shouldn’t go searching for one. Instead, they should bring wine-friendly food.
- Get information as people RSVP. Will they be bringing a bottle? Do they know what bottle? Do they know what food they’re going to bring?
- Have plenty of wine-friendly finger food on hand. We ask each person or couple to bring a small appetizer that will go well with wine. We recommend cheeses, dark chocolate, crackers, bread, fruit and other light dishes.
- Figure out the order of the wine before you start. Light to heavy. Dry to sweet. White to red. New to old.
- Provide a dump bucket. Provide people who spit with an individual cup.
- Provide a tasting sheet for each person. This will allow people to take notes, if they wish.
- Have a two-pronged ah-so corkscrew. Because older corks don’t come out very cleanly, the old fashioned ah-so corkscrew works best for old bottles of wine.
- Celebrate each wine. Before serving each wine, have the person who brought it tell you the story about that wine. Take the time to really acknowledge that person’s story. Serve a once-ounce pour to each person. (You want to make sure that you can get through all of the wines.) If you have really old wines, some of them will need to go down the sink immediately. Have no fear. Bad-tasting wines might traumatize you, but won’t have a physical impact. Talk about the experience. Use the tasting sheet as a guide.
- Make sure the evening is informal and fun. This is a celebration. Enjoy!
I would love to hear about your OTBN celebrations this year. Please share after February 27. Thanks.
Cheers to a WINEderful OTBN!