Wine Talk

Snooth User: Carly Wray

Thoughts on half bottles?

Posted by Carly Wray, May 4, 2010.

I'm curious: Do you order half bottles in restaurants, or ever purchase them for home consumption? I've started to notice them cropping up more frequently in my area (a wine bar just opened in my neighborhood that boasts a half-bottle option for nearly every wine on their list) -- and yet I always feel the urge to either order by the glass, or commit to the full 750 ml.

Do you find yourself wishing for a half-bottle option when you're out?


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Reply by outthere, May 4, 2010.

It's probably a nice choice if you are drinking at a public place alone and only want 2 glasses. When I dine out I generally have more than 2 glasses though. Wine by the glass can be problematic since you don't know how long that bottle has been sitting open, so I always order by the bottle. At home I like to see how wine develops over the course of a couple days so and a 375 wouldn't work for me. Obviously it works for others because, like you mentioned, they are showing up on wine lists everywhere.

Reply by chadrich, May 4, 2010.

Always seems like a good concept, but I find that I never take advantage of it.  There's always a better full bottle selection and the half bottle is usually premium priced.  And my state now allows carry-out of unfinished bottles at restaurants, so you can take the remainder of a 750 home with you.  Plus, wine will age a bit faster in halves, so if it's a wine with a few years on it, I think that can be a risk.

I do however recommend getting a couple of half bottles that you can keep and use to decant half of your 750s into at home, if you're prone to not finish one on the day it's opened.  I've found this to be a good method to help (not solve) the preservation problem for a day or two.

Reply by Girl Drink Drunk, May 4, 2010.

I almost exclusively order by the bottle, but I'd say the 375 is a better option than most btg programs, with little temperature/preservation systems.

Reply by Michael759, May 4, 2010.

If the option is available (which never seems to be the case with the wine that I want), I sometimes go with the 375, particularly if I'm alone.  Sometimes I do the same with my girlfriend; although she loves wine, a glass is sometimes the max for her so a half bottle works well.

Most of the time, I'm a lush and go with the full bottle!

Reply by Mark from Plano, May 4, 2010.

Occassionally at a restaurant if I'm by myself, I'll order a half-bottle. Mostly it's either by the glass or the bottle.  Depends on the restaurant though.  Some places the half-bottle option opens up more (and better) choices than the wine-by-the glass option. 

At home I typically only buy dessert wines (sauternes, muscats, etc.) in half-bottle formats because people don't drink as much of it.

Reply by GregT, May 4, 2010.

Excellent idea for the reasons mentioned.  Restaurants are mixed with those.  They are a pain to inventory and they don't fit into the shelves as well and they're of course, more than 50% of the cost of a full bottle.

But for the customer, they're much better, and really for the restaurant too unless they have a very stingy glass pour program.  Some restaurants have nothing by the glass and only have 1/2 bottles, and I'm fine with that.  At least it's not been open for days. 

Reply by John Andrews, May 4, 2010.

I love half bottles and wished that more producers and restaurants offered them.  I often want a different wine pre-meal and with my appetizer and with my main course.  If I'm on own it's not bad but if I am with someone a half bottle would be a better choice and probably more cost effective.  

Of course, in California I just bring my own wine and that ensures I'm having what I want! 

Reply by Val13, May 4, 2010.

I'm also a fan of half bottles...wish more wine shops had them as well as restaurants. It's a great way to try a new wine, as well as convenient for someone like me who has a fairly low alcohol tolerance and a husband who doesn't drink wine as much. 

@chadrich: "And my state now allows carry-out of unfinished bottles at restaurants, so you can take the remainder of a 750 home with you. " Cool..what state do you live in?

Reply by Peppino, May 4, 2010.

I like having them around at home for those times when I only want wine for that evening or maybe just a glass for a couple nights.  As HondaJohn mentioned they also come in handy when you want to pair different wines with apps and main couse.  Downside is the premium you pay for them.

Reply by Manoavino, May 4, 2010.

No, I feel they are never quite enough. I prefer the full bottles. It is rare that I will finish an entire bottle on the first day of opening. The good ones easily keep for another day or two. I love to see how they change and unfold.

Reply by dmcker, May 5, 2010.

Almost never buy 375ml bottles at home, or out at restaurants. Have to force myself to buy a couple if I want to use them for storage of unfinished bottles at home and I've decided not to use a vacuuvin or inert gas solution. At restaurants, unless I'm in a rush, I'll drink a full bottle with dinner, and maybe a glass of something else before it as an aperitif. If I'm with someone, half bottles aren't even an option. Only way I usually think about ordering a halfbottle is if I'm doing a dessert wine instead of dessert, and I'm on my own.

I never like how a wine has aged in such small containers, so it's not at all useful for wines to be laid down at home. Nor does the flavor and development of the wine stand up to a full bottle (or magnum) of the same vintage, so I would never order an older halfbottle at restaurant.

So to me they're oddities. Though I will take them over the yet-smaller-sized splits of champagne or airline bottles... ;-)

Reply by galleyho, May 5, 2010.

Nope, I'll either order a glass, or if I'm with someone to help drink I'll get a full bottle.

Reply by dynowine, May 6, 2010.

For wines designed for immediate consumption (a good chunk of what's available in most retail stores at least in California), ie those which likely won't hold up well in the fridge or otherwise, and which are say over $8, a 375 half-bottle makes sense for one or two people that drink lightly.  

For wines such as many I've bought from southern France, these often age and improve for several days in the fridge, so there's little risk I will fail to drink a 750.

What I've observed is that small specialty stores stock half-bottles of wines people would otherwise turn away from due to price, ie a $50 special meritage from Calif will enjoy higher demand in two 375s at $25.  This makes the wine accessible to the casual oenophile.  

For wineries building a cult-like status around limited (allocated) releases, releasing some 375 bottles adds to the image of scarcity and helps widen demand for the brand, e.g. "Oh, we drank a <luxury wine name here> last night at home"   Yea, in a 375.    Also, at parties people are more likely to share a 375 with other party-goers - free advertising.


Reply by zufrieden, May 6, 2010.

A half is also a good way to sample wines.  If the wine is simply bad, you've invested little; if the wine is good, you can search out the 750 or 1500.

Personally, I rarely buy short bottles myself, but I can see where they might suit the purposes of the less committed drinker.

Reply by outthere, May 6, 2010.

"they might suit the purposes of the less committed drinker."

I like that. Here's to being "committed"! Some say I should be ;-)

Reply by zufrieden, May 6, 2010.

That must mean you're both sane and interesting.  Cheers!

Reply by Carly Wray, May 7, 2010.

Zufrieden, I like the suggestion of upgrading to the 1500 ... you're after my heart, here. Now I believe we need to start the magnum thread!

Reply by wine o new york, May 7, 2010.

Carly Wray,

My preference is to do the full 750ml bottle,  The half bottles look really cute; however I think that the volume adds to the ability to see how the wine opens and matures after you pop the cork. 

Speaking of Magnums,,,,,I was at a dinner party the other week with 2  Magnums of Chateau Margaux 1996......I definetly did not want any half bottles of that one!!!!!!  It was awesome.....


Wine O New York

Reply by admiral44, May 7, 2010.

It all depends on where you are what you are doing and what you are buying?  If you are out at a bar with a friend and are not sure how long you are gonna be there a half bottle is great, or if you are concerned that you are trying a new wine and don't want to invest in a full bottle.  I in particular like to get half bottles of champagne, it goes great a with food or after or just whenever!  But if for buying for home consumption or cellaring, don't go with a half bottle.  Hope that helps, just remember what mood are you in?

Reply by GhostLemur, May 9, 2010.

I'm all for half bottles, and full bottles... oh and magnums. 6 bottle cases and 12 bottle cases. Variety is the spice of life. The more options for different situations the better. I could certainly picture buying half bottles when having a meal with very different courses and therefore wanting to pair each course with a different wine.

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