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The History of Open That Bottle Night
Open That Bottle Night Posted: 02/22/2022

Open That Bottle Night has been celebrated on the last Saturday of February, every year since 1999. Begun by the then-Wall Street Journal Wine Columnists John Brecher and Dorothy Gaiter, the event has gone worldwide. It is a call to open that special bottle with friends and share the experience, instead of letting it continue to sit in the cellar.


WineBid reached out to John and Dorothy and asked them a few questions about Open That Bottle Night.


What was the Inspiration for starting Open That Bottle Night?

In 1998 when we started The Wall Street Journal “Tastings” column, the question we received most often was along these lines: “I have this bottle from my late father, or my wedding, or an auction, or a visit to the winery. When should I open it?” We always answered: This weekend – open it and celebrate the memories. We got that question so often we eventually said, OK, fine. Clearly it takes a village to open those bottles. So we set one day when we could all screw up enough courage and will to do it together. We named it Open That Bottle Night. It happens on the last Saturday in February and it’s an international celebration of love, friendship and memories centered on wine.


Have you two ever opened that bottle and decided, we wish we hadn't open that bottle? 

Not on Open That Bottle Night. Every bottle we open on OTBN is special for some reason. The wine might be too young or too old but the memories are always perfect.


Have you ever suggested any criteria to people for how to choose a bottle to open and if not what would you suggest folks consider in choosing a bottle to open?

OTBN is about memories. What is it about that bottle that makes you smile and then put it away until you look at it again? Make a great meal, open the bottle and talk about the memories surrounding the wine. The look, smell and taste of a wine can bring back memories in a way a label alone cannot, so let the wine do its magic. An OTBN-worthy wine could be a recent purchase. Maybe the vintage or grape type has significance or you’ve been curious about the winery.  


For a while there, everyone was cooped up during the pandemic. Did you find your wine sampling and drinking habits changed during the pandemic?

The pandemic reminded us none of us is promised tomorrow. We did open a number of special, old wines. At the same time, we were not able, overall, to share the wonders of wine with friends and loved ones – Zoom tastings are not the same – and that’s a shame because wine is meant to be shared.


What is your absolutely best pitch to those wine savers for cracking open something really special on a night that isn’t a special occasion?

We all tend to get it backwards, thinking that a special occasion requires a special wine. Actually, when we open a special wine, it makes the night a special occasion.


In the follow-up story to our very first OTBN in 1999, which the WSJ nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, we quoted John Watson of Maple Glen, Pa: “I can only express one regret. Had we found an occasion last year to open this great ‘gift of the grape,’ my bride of over 50 years could have been present to enjoy this event in person rather than in spirit only.” Now’s the time to Open That Bottle and celebrate the “gift of the grape.”


You can read John and Dorothy’s “Open That Bottle Night” columns by clicking here


Follow them on:

Twitter @winecouple

Instagram @dottieandjohn

Contact John and Dorthy at otbnwine@gmail.com


What bottle will you open for Open That Bottle Night? Share your bottle on Twitter and tag us if you found it on WineBid. 

2005 Château Lafite-Rothschild