For a glass or two of good-quality wine at home – without leaving the rest to go to waste – there are excellent options in half bottles, says Victoria Moore.
‘Maybe just one glass. Of something good.’ It is Tuesday night and a friend has come round for a plate of food and a quick catch-up. Hmm. Good I can do. The one glass bit is more tricky – especially as I don’t think I can palm him off with a slightly ropy…
‘Wait, I can see you mentally running through the bottles you don’t like enough to mind leaving half of. Just open something you really like and finish it off tomorrow.’ He knows me too well. Or perhaps not well enough: I don’t want to feel obliged to drink tomorrow, or to find myself ruefully staring at undrunk wine that has lost its joy and freshness overnight.
At times like this, I often think the 75cl bottle feels like an outdated size. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one. We are collectively more sober than we used to be, drinking 18% less than in 2004, when alcohol consumption peaked, according to data from the Institute of Alcohol Studies. If many of us are consciously drinking less, we also want to enjoy a better quality of wine when we pour a glass of it. In addition, the number of single adult households has risen over the last two decades – yes, it is OK to have a drink on your own.
So what’s the answer? Bag-in-box (BiB) is one – the beauty of this format is that you can drink as much or as little as you want, and there are some better BiBs around. Coravin is another, though it’s expensive to buy and run, among other disadvantages (Coravin is a system that allows you to extract glassfuls of wine from a bottle without pulling the cork). The most obvious solution is straightforward and old-fashioned: the half bottle.
Where to buy them? Waitrose put six of its new ‘blueprint’ own-label range into half bottles last autumn; I like the White Burgundy 2016 (£4.99 for 37.5cl). The supermarket also sells Château Musar by the half bottle – the 2009 vintage of Lebanon’s iconic red is £12.49 for 37.5cl. But it pays to shop further afield than supermarkets if you want a good choice of half bottles. Don’t let that put you off.
The hardest thing about buying half bottles is remembering to do it. Merchants with excellent ranges of wine in 37.5cl sizes include The Wine Society; Tanners of Shrewsbury; and Lea & Sandeman, all of whom do mail order and all of whom have a broad range of baby bottles to make it possible to put together a good mixed case. To start, pop a half of Talmard Mâcon-Chardonnay (£6.90 for 37.5cl) in your basket at Tanners and take it from there. I like to think of a decent half bottle as being like ordering a quick glass of wine in a bar (without having to pay for a babysitter) and spend money accordingly. The only drawback is that it tastes better if you tidy the kitchen before drinking it.
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Victoria Moore is an award-winning wine columnist and author. Her book, The Wine Dine Dictionary (£20, Granta), is out now.