Grab the Bottle & Pour: Why Waiting for the “Perfect Occasion” is a Bad Idea
Not long ago, my friend Winton the Beer Tuber shared the article “Just Drink It Already!” from Draft Magazine that discussed the growing trend of cellaring beer. The author, Christopher Staten, notes that while the flavor of high-gravity and bottled conditioned beer change over time, many people are simply waiting too long to drink them. While some are waiting for flavor to develop further others are waiting for the “perfect occasion” to match the specialness of the bottle.
For some wines and a smaller number of beers there is a curve on which one can describe the flavors as improving over time, but as with all perishable foods there is a point at which the flavors begin to diminish. For beer and wine drinkers, you can tell yourself that the juice in the bottle is still getting better, so there's a reason to wait. Delaying the gratification of drinking the bottle now is offset by the reward of it tasting better in the future. But, for drinkers who prefer whiskey, brandy or some other liquor, this problem is compounded by the fact that distilled spirits don't improve once they've been bottled. So once a bottle has reached its peak, why do we also want to wait for the perfect occasion?
One reason psychologists point to is that, the longer one waits to open a special, expensive, rare, or unique bottle, the more special the occasion needs to be to justify it. For the everyday man like myself, for whom spending over $40 on a bottle of wine only happens a couple of times a year, what could justify drinking a bottle worth over $500? A couple of my friends are currently facing this very same problem. One, a wine lover who has been slowly building a collection of great wine is facing a growing dilemma: when to drink his most prized wines? He told me that the longer he waits the fewer opportunities there seem to be that match the specialness of the bottles. A second friend was given an expensive bottle of Scotch from his father after graduating from law school and two years on he still hasn't cracked the bottle open. Neither graduating, landing a job with a good firm, nor celebrating a wedding anniversary have been special enough reasons to open it up. In both cases you could argue that the bottles are ready but each is still waiting for their perfect occasion.
To be clear, I don't think there is anything wrong with aging wine or beer, allowing their flavors to develop; I too have a couple of special bottles tucked away for later. But, once they are ready, waiting for the mythical perfect occasion seems to me a waist of time. If you went through the trouble to buy a great bottle of wine and cellar it for ten years as it reached its peak maturity, why wait for life to provide the right occasion to open the bottle?
My wife and I are expecting our first child which might explain my current carpe diem attitude but I suspect that sharing a special bottle on a less than “perfect” occasion would be just as enjoyable. Instead of waiting for some perfect day that may never come, think about your favorite drinking experiences and make it happen. Maybe you like to drink by yourself at home curled up on the couch listening to music, or maybe you prefer to drink with a couple of close friends talking about life. Perhaps you like to have a drink during or after a great meal. If you like to cook, make something that will pair well with it, if you prefer to eat out, make a reservation at one of your favorite restaurants. Just make it happen.
Life is too short to end up like Miles, the protagonist from Sideways, drinking his prized wine, past its prime out of a styrofoam cup because life never brought him his perfect occasion. So if you have a great bottle that is ready to drink, create an occasion, grab the bottle and enjoy.