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Mr. Billthered from Rules for OTBN - Open That Bottle Night!
So, how do you do OTBN? If you're planning to open that special old bottle -- and, really, if not now, when? Here's a step-by-step guide:

1. Stand the wine up (away from light and heat, of course) for a few days before you plan to open it -- say, on Wednesday, Feb. 23. This will allow the sediment, if there is some, to sink to the bottom.

2. Both reds and whites are often better closer to cellar temperature (around 55 degrees). Don't over chill the white, and think about putting the red in the refrigerator for an hour or two if you've been keeping it in a 70-degree house.

3. With an old bottle, the cork may break easily. The best opener for a cork like that is the one with two prongs, but it requires some skill. You have three weeks to practice using one. Be prepared for the possibility that the cork will fall apart with a regular corkscrew. If that happens, have a carafe and a coffee filter handy. Just pour enough through the coffee filter to catch the cork.

4. Otherwise, do not decant. We're assuming these are old and fragile wines. Air could quickly dispel what's left of them.

5. Have a backup wine ready for your special meal, in case your old wine really has gone bad.

6. Serve dinner. Then open the wine and immediately take a sip. If it's truly bad -- we mean vinegar -- you will know it right away. But even if the wine doesn't taste good at first, don't rush to the sink to pour it out. You never know what might happen, as Bruce Ahler of Viburnum, Mo. , discovered recently when visiting some friends in South Africa . "They had a small party one evening and the wine was flowing freely. My friend Jim mentioned a bottle of wine that he had been saving for a 'special occasion' for years and years. I told him of reading your story of how these old wines should be opened and enjoyed rather than sitting in the cellar until they are forgotten. So this special bottle is produced: a 1976 Simonsig Pinotage. The wine had sort of a murky color and a little sediment. It was tasted almost immediately after pouring and it had a very flat, smoky taste -- not undrinkable, but certainly not a good wine. I set the glass aside and after about 15 minutes or so I decided to take another taste. And WOW! The smoky taste was still there, but it had developed into a wonderful, deep and complex, grapey taste. I can honestly say that it was like no wine I have ever tasted."

7. Talk about the person who gave you the wine, or the circumstances under which you received it. This makes the wine resonate in a very sweet and personal way.

8. Enjoy the wine for what it is, not what it might be or might once have been.

9. Save one last glass in the bottle.

10. After the dishes are done, pour the remainder of the wine into your glasses (you might pour it through the coffee filter if there's a great deal of sediment, though, personally, we often like the gutsy taste of the wine with the sediment). Then drink up, and enjoy those very last moments of a special night.

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