The other night my husband and I opened a half-bottle of Lanson Black Label Champagne. I love Champagne and would have a glass every night, but sometimes (even with a good Champagne stopper), it's hard to preserve that bottle. WIth a half bottle, both of us can have one glass (in our very big glass/flutes) as an aperitif or to start the meal, then move onto a red or white.
A few years ago in France, we spent 3 or 4 days in Burgundy. Most restaurants we went to had an extensive half bottle list, which thrilled us as we could have white AND red without overdoing it (by our standards) or spending too much, because each half bottle was exactly half the price of a full bottle of the same wine.
We can't be the only ones that are excited by larger half bottle lists in restaurants or in stores. So why are they so rare? On the production side, is it because half bottles are just as expensive to produce as 750mL? Is it because they are difficult to sell? On the consumer part, do you look for half bottles in the store? At a restaurant? Most half bottles I see are sweet wines (some of which are only available in half bottle size) and sparkling. Perhaps because these are drunk in smaller quantities. At Wine.com, we have 60 wines in our half-bottle selection, 21 of those (about 30%) are still, dry wines (not sparkling, not dessert). For us, as an online retailer, shipping a half bottle is no less expensive (or space saving) than shipping a full bottle. But that's not why there is not a huge selection – consumer demand is not high. As a distributor told me the other day, consumers request the half bottles and lament the lack of variety, but when they present the options, customers continue to buy full bottles. In other words, customers demand, but do not act when the opportunity presents itself. But I certainly would! With a good selection of half bottles on a wine list, at half the price of the full bottle, I'd much more enjoy drinking two different wines over my meal than be stuck with one. That said, I'd probably stick with buying more full bottles in the store. As someone who has worked in retail, I don't see half bottles as popular in stores as in a restaurant – although they are the perfect solution for partners who have a pregnant wife! My husband stocked up on half bottles when I was pregnant.
Asking the question on Twitter (what do you think of half bottles?), the responses were positive towards them, with most wanting more variety and not liking the premiums – aka, they are not always half the price of a full bottle. Seresin Estate (some of the best Sauvignon Blanc & Pinot Noir in New Zealand) said they are just starting to make half bottles. I'd jump at a chance to order a half bottle of their SB in a restaurant as a starter and move to a red for the main meal, but again, only if it was half the price of the full bottle.
Would love to hear more opinions on half bottles from producers, retailers and consumers – why don't we see more of them?