Mon 10 Mar 2014

Half Measures: Musings On Smaller Bottles


The Tuesday night glass of wine need not be a starter for ten.

Too many times in the past I have opened a bottle of an evening to share with my girlfriend, only to be left with a half-full bottle that requires a decision I felt unable to make for the best!

Half bottlesTo seal the bottle and save for another evening, or throw caution (and possibly an early night) to the wind and drink up?

A suitably sized solution is at hand! My colleague Martin Brown also wrote in praise of the half bottle on this blog some years ago, and the message is still the same.

The Society’s halves allow a midweek measure of one’s favourite tipple. The flexibility these halves afford are well known with regards to sweet dessert wines, but with a range that includes sherry and Champagne, our selection enables anyone to do things in half measures and not be chastised for it!

Not only that, but also, at more indulgent times of the week, they present an ideal opportunity for matching wine with food courses.

Indeed, a belated Valentines meal allowed me to do just that: a half bottle of Cassis, Clos Val Bruyère, Château Barbanau complemented my garlic prawns (and stood up admirably to the hint of chilli), before a half of Jaboulet’s Ventoux Les Traverses, whose ripe grenache fruit provided the perfect fruit for pigeon breasts pan fried with butter. My treacle tart and modest cheeseboard was then served with a stunning half bottle of Williams & Humbert As You Like It Amontillado.

My only regret was not having a half bottle of The Society’s Champagne to start!

Conrad Braganza
The Cellar Showroom

Categories : Miscellaneous


  1. Roger Straiton says:

    I think that Winston had it about right with the Imperial Pint. He said that a whole bottle of champagne in the morning was too much but a half bottle was just not quite enough! They don’t make them like that any more.

  2. Aidan McLernan says:

    I like the half litre bottles that seem to be available in France but not in UK.

  3. Paul Norris says:

    I find myself staring at this same problem.
    My dearly beloved proclaims she is not to be led into drinking her ( largely already stored ) share of the delights I anticipate in coming years.
    I should be buying halves of my favourites but often the wines I like are not easily found in halves. I also feel my joy slightly constrained by the necessary care required in making sure the bottle lasts until my meal is complete and I am satisfied. There is nothing worse than finding ones self short of that final glass.
    The “baby boomers” like me are approaching an age when diminishing size of appetite and capacity for wine consumption makes tackling a 75 cl bottle of good wine on ones own a restriction on choice. The problem is that leaving the remaining half bottle stoppered until the following day can be disappointing particularly with aged bottles.
    A very good friend of mine has offered me a solution he finds effective. Your chosen bottle once opened, decanted if need be, is poured into a cleaned glass Hildon or other 37cl bottle. Fill to the brim and screw down securely allowing no air in contact with the wine. He is convinced this a far better way of maintaining quality for short periods of time than pumps and the like which can eviscerate aromas and flavours.

    I cannot see an easy answer. Perhaps I am alone in thinking a 50cl bottle might be a good idea? Do you know it might even bring an evenings drinking costs down.

  4. John Southall says:

    That all reads like an interesting indulgence for Valentines night, but what did your girlfriend drink?
    John Southall

  5. Clive Warren says:

    Never heard of Vac-U-Vin?

  6. Alan Tipping says:

    Half bottles certainly have their place. As the only sherry drinker in our house a half bottle of the Society’s fino would be greatly appreciated, but perhaps that’s a minority view!

    • Toby Morrhall says:

      Thank you for expressing your view. We used to do half bottles of Society’s Fino but found we had a tiny market – most members evidently got through a bottle in a reasonable time. Ironically the half bottles moved slowly so were less fresh than the bottles. Because it is an oxidative style a half-full bottle of fino will keep for 4 or 5 days in a fridge without losing too much of its aroma. I am sure we will review this in the future if we have more comments such as yours.
      Toby Morrhall
      Society Buyer for Sherry

  7. A R ELLIS says:

    The problem with half bottles is that most of them have a high margin. Refer to the current list, p.34, to buy 2 halves of CB4042 is >17% more expensive than to buy a standard bottle of CB4041. More reasonable is RH26372 on p.50, a margin of 7.5% on the standard bottle RH26371, and The Society’s Exhibition Sauternes on p.136, a margin of only <5%. Couldn't the WS have a standard policy of, say, charging £1 more for 2 halves?

    • A R ELLIS says:

      Sorry, it was the last list, i.e. the Christmas list I was looking at.

      • Tim Sykes says:

        Thanks for your comment. We work on the same margin for halves as bottles. Unfortunately bottling halves is expensive, and the cost price of a half bottle is always considerably more than 50% of the 75cl bottle.
        Tim Sykes
        Head of Buying

  8. Neil says:

    Boxed wine might be the answer. However, the choice at supermarkets is very limited. Unless, that is, you are willing to drink Black Tower or Blue Nun!

  9. Richard Wallace says:

    While I was living in Switzerland, we had 50 cl bottles – very useful!

  10. Marian Sloane says:

    As a solo woman drinker I re-use those 18.7 cl small screwtop bottles that supermarkets sell indifferent wines in and fill them to the brim to exclude air. The wine keeps well (better than leaving it in the bottle, and I can’t cope with machines to suck the air out!) for a week or so. It enables me to have a change of colour from one day to another to suit food. I get two small glasses out of it – and I can drink my lovely Wine Soc wine! My children still say it’s too much to have regularly.. These health guidelines are hard to live with! The drawback is buying the original bottles – the screw tops are getting a bit loose after a year’s use!

  11. Isn’t a half bottle a tad mean if you both drink wine? Bring back the Imperial Pint!!

  12. Trevor Morris says:

    I agree that half bottles are becoming much more attractive as I age. A wider range would be much appreciated.

  13. Peter Pagnamenta says:

    I wish the wine society would be bold, and experiment with 50 cl bottles – it’s a much more useful size than the half bottle. Why not start with some of the Society’s range. They work in Europe, and Waitrose has been doing some.

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