Many of us know and love Open That Bottle Night, also known as OTBN, which is the last Saturday in February where you get together with wine-loving friends to drinks wines you have likely saved for a wee bit too long. Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher, the former wine writers of the Wall Street Journal, created this event in 2000 as “the world-wide celebration of friends, family and memories during which all of us finally drink that wine that is otherwise simply too special to open.”
This year my wine tasting group decided to do variations on Open That Bottle Night. This past weekend, we did Open That Unknown Bottle Night, or OTUBN.
With a bunch of wine lovers, it’s hard to figure out what wines none of us will know. Suffice it to say, we didn’t have any Cabernets, Chardonnays, Zinfandels or the other usual suspects. Each of us brought a bottle of wine that we got to talk about. Our very special Open That Bottle Night was a really fun learning experience – and of course a delicious one too.
Our Unknown Open That Bottle Night Wines
We ended up with five whites and three reds:
- Petit Mensang
I’d love to know which of these varieties are new to you. For me, there were three I had never tried – Posip, Sagrantino and Petit Mensang – and two I hadn’t heard of – Sagrantino and Petit Mensang.
Notes About the Wines
In this article, I’ll talk about the whites we tasted. Next week, I’ll talk about the reds. I will combine our teachings with information from Wikipedia, WinePros. Wine Folly and Tablas Creek Vineyard. Except where mentioned, all of the quotes below are from WinePros.
White Wine #1: Alvarinho
Alvarinho/Albarino (the Portugese and Spanish names of the grape) “is considered by many to be Spain’s premier quality white wine. Albariño wines are very sweet smelling, often described as having scents of almonds or almond paste, apples, citrus, lime, peaches, and flowers or grass.” The wine has a nice acidity that makes it well suited for seafood dishes. The wine we had was from BoaVentura de Caires in Livermore.
White Wine #2: Arneis
Arneis (pronounced arNAYZ) has been growing in the Piedmont area of Italy since the 15th century. For many years, it was used to soften big, bad Nebbiolos. Because of its relationship to Nebbiolo, it has a bunch of synonyms, including White Nebbiolo and Barolo Bianco. But don’t be confused. It’s its own grape.
When Nebbiolo started to be made as a standalone wine, Arneis all but disappeared. Thankfully, in the 1980s, there was a resurgence. And now Arneis is grown in Italy, CA, OR, AZ and Australia.
The word Arneis means little rascal, which is very appropriate, given that this grape is quite difficult to grow.
Arneis is crisp, floral, dry and full bodied. It has notes of almond, apricot, peach, pear and hops.
White Wine #3: Posip
Posip (pronounced Poship) is grown in the Dalmation region of Croatia. We were lucky enough to get to taste a 2010 Grgic from the region. This is the same Grgic that we know as Mike Grgich, the famous wine maker who is hopefully still going strong at 94 years old.
According to TheWineAndMore.com, “Pošip gives high quality grapes with high yield and, if harvested and vinified properly, results in full bodied white wine with a good balance of alcohols and acids. This wine has intense aroma and flavor (think of dried apricots and figs).” As we were tasting it, we couldn’t help but think of Apricot Brandy.
The wine we tasted was very yellow. We are eager to find another bottle to see if ours perhaps hadn’t aged well.
White Wine #4: Torrontés
Wine Folly describes Torrontés as an “aromatic white wine that originated in Argentina. Torrontés is an ideal wine to match with Asian and Indian cuisine due to its sweet floral aromas of rose petals and flavors of white peach and lemon zest. The wine smells sweet, but is usually made in a dry style and the best Torrontés wines come from the high elevation vineyards in Salta, Argentina.”
White Wine #5: Petit Mensang
The Petit Mensang grape is from the southwest of France. It’s a small, white thick-skinned grape that, according to Tablas Creek, can “achieve sufficient concentration and sugar content to make naturally sweet wines without botrytis.”
The Petite Mensang we had was a late-harvest dessert wine from Pearmund Cellars, a winery in Northern VA. The wine had nice notes of apricot, peach and orange blossom.
The guest who brought the wine said you can find versions of the wine that aren’t late harvest. I looked on the Tablas Creek website and found that their Petit Mensang is not late harvest. Here’s how they describe it: “The 2014 Petit Manseng is a pretty green-gold color. The nose has tropical, spicy and herbal notes, with pineapple, tarragon, crystallized ginger and peppered citrus. On the palate it is lightly sweet but also quite tangy, with rich texture and flavors of dried mandarin, honey, and peppery spice. The wine finishes clean and dry with a lingering flavor of lemon zest. We expect it to age gracefully.”
I hope you will consider doing your own variations on Open That Bottle Night. Whether you choose to follow us and try unknown wines or do something entirely different, you are sure to have fun.
If you’ve already done this kind of event, please share your experiences with us here. Thanks!
As an independent wine consultant with WineShop At Home, I absolutely enjoy bringing a taste of the Napa wine country home to you one sip at a time. Whether you simply love to drink wine, seek a special personalized wine gift, or are in search of a new wine jobs opportunity as a wine consultant, feel free to contact me for a truly unique wine tasting experience!
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