Matt Monk of the Whalley Wine Shop suggests its time to blow the dust off those ‘special occasion’ bottles

The longer it spends on the shelf, the more reverence we seem to attach to it, and the harder it gets to open it.

Thursday, 29th April 2021, 12:30 pm

I don’t know about any of you, but I have a bottle of champagne in my fridge for special occasions. It’s been there for more than 18 months. In that time we’ve had six ‘in-house’ birthdays, two wedding anniversaries, an engagement, youngest starting uni, oldest moving out, oldest moving back in, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, winning awards at work, and yes, Getting Over Covid!! And it’s still in the fridge waiting for that special occasion.

But just what makes that bottle special that you’ve been keeping for that special occasion??

Maybe it was a generous birthday gift from family or friends, perhaps it was bought for one of those big ‘special’ birthdays. Is it something you brought home from a wonderful holiday to remind you of that great evening with friends, watching the sun go down? Perhaps something that celebrates the start of a new chapter in life, maybe a honeymoon wine? (Ours was a bottle of Kanonkop Kadette Pinotage, in a small hotel in Blairgowrie, 21 years ago). Or maybe that bargain you picked up from the shop when you only went in for bacon!

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Sometimes it’s the people who make it ‘that special occasion’ and you’ve promised to share that bottle when you next meet – I have a bottle of ’08 Nuits St Georges that I’ve promised to share.

Maybe the bottle didn’t get opened when you took it round for dinner (always take your own corkscrew), maybe it needs sunshine and a plateau of fruits de mer??

We constantly look for an excuse to open these dusty old’special’ bottles, but then often convince ourselves there’s a reason not to.

And it isn’t always a bottle of champagne. At the shop, we are regularly asked for help to choose a great bottle of red or white for a gift for a significant birthday, a new birth, or if we can get hold of a favourite wine from a special holiday –we will always try and source a wine if we can). Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Vintage Port and Puligny-Montrachet (hmmmm Puligny!!!) are all customer favourites.

But when will you drink it? The longer it spends on the shelf, the more reverence we seem to attach to it, and the harder it gets to open it. To the point where it just sits there (next to a jar of cranberry jelly from Christmas 2019).

Although many wines do improve with age, especially champagne, there comes a time when they will start to deteriorate.

After everything that we have been through over the last umpteen months, perhaps now is the time to just have ‘that special occasion’ garden party, meet six friends each bringing their ‘special’ bottle and enjoy the stories attached to them, or just celebrate being friends and the sun is shining! Invite the person you want to share it with and open it.

Nip to the fishmonger/butcher/deli counter and buy some great local produce and open some special wine to go with it.

Something I did a few weeks back was to organise a Zoom meeting with friends all showing a bottle of wine that meant something to them. We all had a good chat and a laugh when I showed my bottle of 11-year-old rosé that I found lurking at the back of my wine rack waiting for that special occasion. It was so far past its best it went down the sink.

Whatever the occasion, open a special bottle and enjoy it.

In the meantime, here is a selection of some ready-to-drink fizz for ‘that special occasion’.

Autréau 1er Cru Champagne £27.99

The Autréau family have been producing champagne since the 17th century near Epernay. This is a fantastic value Premier Cru Champagne made with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes. It has lovely aromas of baked apple and hazelnuts, but it still retains freshness and acidity.

Black Chalk Classic English Sparkling Wine £36.99

Showcasing the exceptional quality of the grapes grown in the Test Valley in Hampshire. Grown on similar soils to the Champagne region and using the same grape blend. Perfectly balanced style with crisp fresh apple and pear notes, a long finish.

KWV Laborie Blanc de Blancs £14.99

An absolute shop favourite, such great value and quality. Lots of fresh citrus and lime on the nose and palate before opening out and showing notes of toasted hazelnuts and brioche. Perfect with that plateau of fruits de mer.