Who, beyond the perennially lonely, would buy a half-bottle of wine? At 375ml, it's good for 2.4 glasses, or, in dinner party measurements, just enough to leave everyone dissatisfied.
We can start with Elin McCoy, Bloomberg's wine columnist. When Loot called her up to ask about half-bottles, she informed us that she has many of them and is a "huge believer.” Here's why:
1. They're great for people who like to drink more than one wine at dinner.
"If you have dinner with a friend and use half bottles, you can have champagne to start, then a bottle of white, then a bottle of red," she says. That kind of variety would be difficult to manage with full bottles. "I couldn't drink three bottles of wine," says McCoy. "But maybe some of your readers can?" (Only one way to find out...)
2. They're cheaper, and often better, than wines-by-the-glass at a restaurant.
A half-bottle often costs as much as two glasses of a similar wine. Assuming you're with a friend, "you'll get more wine, because a glass of wine is 5oz, and a half-bottle of wine is 12oz," McCoy says. "And second, wines poured by the glass have often been open for hours, so they're frequently disappointing."
3. Wine in half-bottles ages faster than wine in regular bottles.
"The cork is the same size as a regular bottle, but because the ratio of the cork to the liquid is smaller, it lets in more air per cubic centimeter of wine, which makes it mature faster" McCoy says. "For some people it's a disadvantage, in that you can't buy little bottles of red Bordeaux to store for 15 years, but if you want to drink something sooner, you'd do well to buy a half-bottle."
4. Half bottles make expensive wine accessible.
"You get to taste something special for less," McCoy says. "For example, a half bottle of Ornellaia, which is one of the few great Super Tuscans, costs $125." Compare that to a full bottle, McCoy says, which costs around $235.
She notes that most of her comments relate to pricey, French wines. "I see zero reason to buy half bottles of anything that's inexpensive," McCoy says. "And not many Californian producers make half bottles at all." Instead, wines sturdy enough to weather the faster aging process like Bordeaux, Rhone wines, some Burgundies, Champagnes, and "basically any sweet wine from France, Austria, and Germany" are all good candidates for the half-sized treatment.
Lest those dining alone feel they've been forgotten, McCoy puts a bright spin on the solo-sized drink. "It's the bachelor's savior from alcoholism," she says. "Everyone should be able to enjoy a nice wine, without worrying about it going bad the next day."
We'll raise 2.4 glasses to that.