If you’ve only got one bottle of a special wine, do you drink it or hold it?
I'm often asked that question, and I have a couple of thoughts that merit consideration the next time you’re facing that dilemma.
Once, just after I’d moved to Napa, a heatwave hit and I worried about my small cache of wines—each bottle was unique. Would they cook?
First, I put them in my dresser drawer under a pile of shirts and socks. But then I decided I’d be better off keeping them in the refrigerator for a few days, which is what I did. The wines were fine when I drank them.
My most memorable experience with a single bottle happened in northeastern Italy, in Collio, Friuli. A vintner named Gradimar Gradnik offered me a bottle of his Picolit, a rare, prized, slightly sweet dessert-style wine made from the white grape that is its namesake.
As I visited with his daughter, Wanda Gradnik, I asked Gradimar about the Picolit. He described how important it was to the region and to their historic winery and then concluded that this was the perfect wine to sip in your pajamas while watching TV. (I have a witness to this exchange; I wonder if Matt Kramer, seated next to me, recalls this episode).
Wanda blushed, clearly embarrassed, and we both laughed as we tried to picture how the thick-fisted, barrel-chested man must have looked lounging in his PJs with a glass of wine in his hand, watching TV.
I kept the bottle and brought it back home. I set it aside, waiting for the right moment to open it. I tried to think if I’d ever drunk wine in my pajamas, and I don’t think I ever have. Finally, I opened it at a dinner party with an Italian theme, and we enjoyed it after the meal, while still dressed in our civvies.
From then on, I have more or less decided that it’s best to open your single bottles of wine rather than cellar them—especially if you really don’t know much about the wine and what it tastes like.
Surely, there’s nothing wrong with sitting on a bottle for the right occasion. But my reasoning, and what I tell those who ask for my advice, is that you’re better off knowing what that one bottle tastes like. Because if you really love the wine, you’ll likely have a better shot of buying another one than if you wait a decade.
If it turns out you merely like the wine, well, that too is valuable information. You’ll know you've spared yourself the suspense of aging a wine only to be disappointed.
I’m curious how you deal with the one bottle dilemma.