Big Wine, Small Packages: Half bottles offer versatility

When you just want a little, sometimes big jugs won’t do. Full-sized 750-milliliter bottles of wine can be daunting when faced solo or with small change jingling in the pocket. So about 10 years ago, the wine industry answered the call with half bottles and splits. After initial popularity, little bottles disappeared for a while, but they’re back with more variety than ever.The 375-milliliter shorties recently reemerged with little fanfare on retail shelves and wine lists around the Southeast, yet their versatility remains under-appreciated. Consumers should wake up to the fact that each bottle provides the perfect amount, 2 or so glasses, for a short, school-night meal.

As Americans slowly evolve into more of a dining culture as opposed to a shove-food-in-your-mouth-in-the-car-on-the-way-to-the-next-commitment culture, consuming wine becomes more important not only in its enjoyment but also for the health benefits. Half bottles allow us to consume moderate amounts of alcohol instead of getting hammered with a full bottle.

But for wine fanatics like me, smaller bottles encourage exploration. Because they’re normally less expensive than their siblings, you can pair wines by courses and regions. Italy, France and Germany offer plenty of half bottles, and that expensive bottle of Chateau Blah Blah you’ve been eyeing may not be so exorbitant with a half bottle price tag.

Then there are those cute little 187-milliliter split bottles. Mostly used to house sparkling wines, they’re also spotted on airplanes filled with regular still wine. Keep in mind that the sparkling wine inside is not “Méthode Champenoise” — the traditional way to instill bubbles in sparkling wines — so the quality will not be a good as when you’re buying a full bottle of bubbly.

There are downfalls to the little guys: they can cost as much as a regular bottle. Most wineries, the smaller ones especially, only have one bottling line — designed for 750-milliliter. Bottling the half bottles is often farmed out or done the old-fashioned way, by hand, and the costs of glass, labeling and the wine itself are essentially the same as a regular bottling.

Next time you’re debating on white, red or bubbly, or looking to expand your wine repertoire, remember you have the choice of buying a variety of shorties.


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