Friday, 24 August 2012

When to open that truly special bottle of wine

It is always difficult to determine when to share a truly special bottle of wine and who to share it with.  We recently gave our good friends a bottle of 1993 Penfolds Grange for their wedding and within four months, they wanted to open it and share it with us when we came over to their house for dinner last week.  While honored that they would love to share such a special bottle with us, we convinced them to save it for a more special purpose like their first anniversary, getting their Australian citizenship, having a child, or something like that.

I have had some truly great wines over the years where I have originally bought a couple dozen bottles, but as I have consumed them and gotten down to my last few bottles (and knowing this vintage of this wine can never be found again, except possibly at auction or in a private cellar), the responsibility grew as to when to serve this bottle and with who to share it.

When I was less mature as a wine drinker (and less mature as a person!), I would want to target a truly special occasion for that last bottle of a truly great wine.  It actually got to the point where it was a burden to decide instead of the joy it should have been.

Recently I have changed heart and instead of putting on the pressure to find the a special event to justify that special bottle, I am now looking at how I can consume that special bottle to make an 'ordinary' event much more special.  Let me give you two examples of that.

I have a group of guys that formed a great team on the last big project I worked on and they are respected and trusted colleagues and friends.  Six of us are getting together next Wednesday for a reunion and a great meal out.  While the place we are going is not a BYO (Bring Your Own), I know the owner and the sommelier and because I bring a lot of business to them, they are happy to allow me to bring my own wines for special occasions.  I have done that for my and my wife's birthdays for example.  And I am doing that again for our reunion.  Because of the respect I have for this team of guys, I am bringing some great wines to the meal.  It is not a matter of waiting for the right occasion to break out the great wine, but how to make every occasion much better by opening and sharing those special bottles.  That is what will make an 'ordinary' reunion that much more special.

If we keep waiting for a better occasion, we end up either dead or with a 'dead' bottle because we waited far too long.  This recently happened to someone with a 1962 Penfolds Grange which was no longer any good because they waited too long.

One of my wife's all-time favorite wines is the 1996 Wolf Blass Grey Label (which is a blend of 30% Shiraz and 70% Cabernet Sauvignon similar in style to the Penfolds Bin 389).  These blends are iconically Australian and make for a tremendous drop.  We were fortunate to have bought three dozen bottles of this excellent wine in the late '90s and I think we paid about $16 per bottle for this wine, but I can't remember for sure.  Several years ago, we put this wine up against the Penfolds Bin 389 in a vertical tasting and compared the 1996 Wolf Blass Grey Label to the 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998 and 2004 Penfolds Bin 389, and the consistent pick for the best wine that evening was the 1996 Wolf Blass Grey Label!  That is how good this wine is!

Well, now a decade later, we have one bottle left and I have been thinking about the right time to have it, but I am waiting no more.  Instead of finding the right occasion for the wine, I am just going to have the wine tomorrow night as I wanted to make the night more special for my wife and myself instead of it just being an 'ordinary' Saturday night at home.  We are not sure if we are making spaghetti bolognese, wagyu beef burgers, lamb or whatever, but we know the night will become special because we will be sharing that last bottle of a great wine together.

Therefore, instead of waiting for that absolutely special occasion, my recommendation to you is to look at how you can make 'ordinary' occasions far more special by bringing that great bottle of wine to share!

Looking back, I now believe it was a mistake to pass on the 1993 Penfolds Grange at my friends house and we should have made the evening more special by enjoying it together.  And (hopefully!) the next time he offers, I will say 'yes!"

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