Many consumers are now savvy enough to know that the restaurant markup
on bottle wine is much less than on glass wine. A half bottle offers
a value-driven alternative to a choice of wines by the glass for anyone
interested in less than a full 750 ml. (not to mention the advantages
of provenance, variety, and quality). On the restaurant management
side, purchasers quickly discover that a half bottle wholesale price
rarely represents half the wholesale price of the full bottle. The
warning here: If you plan to promote a list of demi-bottles based
upon value, do the math! Only buy wines that dont gouge you
and the consumer simply for the convenience of size. We have a duty
to support and encourage winemakers who have an authentic dedication
to wine production in a variety of formats.
Down in the Cellar
The early-maturing quality of wine stored in half bottles provides
both advantages and disadvantages. Most oenophiles are aware that
375s age at approximately twice the rate of full bottles (this
may be due to the higher ratio of oxygen to wine inside the bottle).
The advanced flavor profile that half bottles offer can create opportunities
to enjoy the wine earlier, or to project the progression of larger
formats as they age. This remains especially the case for tannic red
wines and ports. Winemakers often concur by creating half bottles
for just that purpose. Diamond Creek recently released a "big
bottle only" (a five liter bottle!) production of their 1997
Lake Vineyard Cabernet to celebrate the millennium. They thoughtfully
included a petite half bottle with the $2000 purchase so that consumers
could sample the wine during their own celebrations, and cellar the
Winemakers are also aware of the pitfalls. The treachery of some half
bottle production occurs when more delicate wines, despite perfect
storage conditions, rapidly deteriorate into faded or oxidized representations.
Obviously, this is most often the case with white wines, rosés
and Champagnes that are intended for immediate consumption. Even in
the case of sturdier wines, a watchful eye must be maintained. In
one instance, a Champagne producer refused to continue distribution
of their eminently ageable tête de cuvée in the 375 ml.
format because the wine had snuck over the hill. Meanwhile, the full
bottles still required more time before they were completely accessible.
For these reasons, your inventory of half bottles demands that you
monitor their status more aggressively. Remember, keep tasting.