Reader mail: what are half bottles good for?

half_bottle_wineQuestion: What are half bottles good for?

Answer: In the south of France, half bottles are called “bed-wetter bottles” and are frequently chosen by people who don’t want to get up too many times at night. People who choose half bottles also must sit at the kiddie table if there is one.

Okay, I made that up. But you don’t have to just be an optimist thinking that a half a bottle is better than none. Here are five reasons you shouldn’t ignore half bottles:

1. They age faster than big bottles. Normally, this is bad. But if you want to “check in” on how a wine is evolving, pulling a 375ml from your cache is one way to do it.

2. They help people who like different wines but are dining together. She wants red and he wants white? Pop two half bottles at dinner are you are all set.

3. Great “weeknight” size. Sometimes 375ml is all you need for two people anyway.

4. They offer a lower-priced way to access more expensive wines. Don’t get me wrong: they’re not less expensive per ounce. But if you were thinking about getting a $100 bottle and found a 375ml for $60, it’s still less money to try the same juice.

5. You can save them. The empty 375s are great vessels for storing…wait for it… a half a regular bottle. By reducing the amount of oxygen in the bottle, the wine stays fresher longer. Just be sure to pour the reminder of the regular bottle into the half bottle over a sink in case there’s any spillage. And leave enough room for a cork to go back in. NOTE: still wines only!

What’s your take on half bottles–useful or useless?

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11 Responses to “Reader mail: what are half bottles good for?”

  1. I used to be a corporate trainer and traveled a lot on my own. A half bottle at a nice restaurant was a pleasant indulgence on my last night in town (I was usually posted for a 2 week run). You rarely see entry-level wines in the half bottle format, but to be honest and despite the higher cost, I’ll take a decent half bottle over pour-by-the-glass any day unless I really trust the restaurant.

  2. We have been buying half-bottles for years mostly for reasons 1 and 4 in your blog post. We have also found at times very good wines can be purchased at very good prices both at retailers and restaurants when half-bottles were not selling and there was an effort to get them out of inventory. Had not thought of #5 in your post but will definitely apply the idea.

  3. I love half bottles in restaurants! Love them with exclamation points! Love them with high-school girl typography 🙂 😉 !! Hearts and flowers !!!

    My wife doesn’t drink very much. If we order a full bottle of wine — which we do a lot — that’s all we are drinking that night. But if there’s a half-bottle, I can get a glass of something different, and so can she.

    Love love love love mmmmmm smoochees!!!!!!

  4. Benito – Good call!

    Chuck – Good luck–careful not to overfill.

    Blake – O. M. sparkly G. !! So glad the half bottle strategy works.

    Question for Benito and Blake – how often do (or did, Benito) you see half bottles on wine lists?

  5. For cooking! When you make sauces, you often do not need 0,7l and if you are in a typically non wine drinking household, then everything else would be a waste 🙂

  6. In response to the Good Doctor’s question:

    I didn’t (and don’t) see them that often, but tend to order one when I see the option to encourage the practice. Half bottles are practically non-existent here on Memphis menus (except for sparkling/dessert wines, which are a different issue). I mainly encountered them on wine lists in old school French bistros, the kind of places where they’ve been making coq au vin and gratin dauphinois for 50 years and the menu is pretty static.

    Needless to say, I am biased because I would seek out these restaurants as a soul-nourishing break from chains and modern cuisine. Sure, the Thai-Colorado fusion place was delicious, but sometimes you just want a properly roasted chicken quarter, a good Rhône half bottle, and an elderly waiter in a tuxedo.

  7. Frankly I stopped making half bottles as I was so upset as to how the wines were developing in the bottle. After a year a 375 ml. is much different in character than a 750 ml. and, in my opinion not in a better way. For unfinished wines I find gassing the wines and storing them in the refrigerator keeps the wines in excellent condition and more true to type than half bottles can be. The only exception being high-alcohol, high pH wines that won’t keep well no matter what you do. As I avoid those kinds of wines I find I can keep wines fresh for several days with no problem.

  8. I’ll take a decent half bottle over pour-by-the-glass any day unless I really trust the restaurant.nice to post .

  9. […] (L’articolo originale completo in inglese è questo “Reader mail: what are half bottles of wine good for?”) […]

  10. I’m surprised no one has mentioned one of the most obvious benefits of the format: portability. They are great to keep in your desk, to throw in a backpack or picnic basket, or for sneaking into a movie or outdoor concert. I always try to keep a few around — in white, red and pink — for these eventualities. Shame that seldom few stores even here in NY carry more than a token selection. Astor’s is the best in town that I know of. And Wine Library, in NJ, when out that way.

    At restaurants: when I was in France my wife and I would generally get a half bottle each, which was a doubly great solution when you want a white and red for different courses. It was perfect. Alas, here in profit-oriented ‘murica, I find the markups on 1/2s in most restaurants (when there is a selection at all) to be too much, and thus am more likely to stick to a 750.

  11. Half-bottles are great with tasting menus, which go from light and fishy to the rich and meaty. We will have a half of white or Champagne for the first half of the meal, and a half of red for the second half.

    This is an alternative to the wine flights chosen by the restaurant, which to my mind generally aren’t good value for money.


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