The 375-milliliter shorties recently re-emerged with little fanfare on retail shelves and wine lists around the Southeast, yet their versatility remains underappreciated. Consumers should wake up to the fact that each bottle provides the perfect amount, two 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 in its 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 bigger 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. And if you can't decide between white or red, then don't; reach for two halves.
If you're in a restaurant salivating for a glass of wine, but not sure that opened 1997 Cabernet gathering dust behind the bar is at its optimum freshness, opt for a half-bottle instead. And if you're a lone diner, halves are also a good way to go.
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 "Methode Champenoise" -- the traditional way to instill bubbles in sparkling wines -- so the quality will not be as good as when you're buying a full bottle of bubbly. But keep your expectations realistic and you'll be pleasantly surprised.
Of course, there are downfalls to the little guys: Some can cost as much as a regular bottle. Some 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. But if you can't finish a full bottle, then aren't you wasting half your money anyway?
So 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. They're convenient, often cheaper and hey, they're damned cute too.
2001 Murphy Goode Reserve Fume Blanc ($9/375 milliliter, $17/750 milliliter) : Remember the fragrant honeysuckle flower you enjoyed as a kid? This wonderfully fresh, balanced Sauvignon Blanc will regress you back to those carefree days.
1999 Beaulieu Vineyards Rutherford Napa Cabernet ($14/375 milliliter, $25/750 milliliter) : One of the pricier half-bottles out there, but compared to a full bottle price, you're golden. This is fantastic Cab, bursting with dark cherry and coffee and a sultry kiss of a finish.
Pommery Pop Extra Dry ($10/187 milliliter) : Sold complete with a plastic straw, these splits come from a Champagne house in France trying to stomp out the snobby image of sparkling wine. No special occasion needed to enjoy this slightly sweet, citrusy sparkler.
Guigal Cotes du Rhône ($7/375 milliliter, $12/750 milliliter) : A fun, French Rhône grape blend bursting with red fruit flavors that don't let go. This half-bottle is wonderful for those looking to explore a bit of the Rhone wild side.
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