O’s wine expert explains why small bottles are hitting the big time
Our wine expert explains why small bottles are hitting the big time
“Drink less, drink better” has become something of a mantra in discerning drinking circles. Alcohol consumption in the UK is on a downward trend, particularly among younger people, who are far more sober than their boozy parents and seem to prefer quality over quantity.
Half bottles of wine fit this bill to a tee. They suit midweek drinking for those who want one glass without the temptation of polishing off a whole bottle; and self-restrained individuals who might not finish an open bottle until it’s past its prime (most wines lose their charm two or three days after opening). Recently, supermarkets have launched half bottles of cheap and cheerful wines for such occasions; although small bottles are also great for those who balk at paying top dollar for a whole bottle, but still want quality.
The excise duty levied on wine, around £2.60 on every 75cl bottle, plus other taxes and logistics costs, means that you get far better quality by spending a little more. The value of wine in a £5 75cl bottle is only 37p, while that in a half bottle at the same price is around £1.38 – and the more you spend, the more comparative quality you get. Good independent wine shops should be able to guide you, or head for classy online merchants such as Berry Bros & Rudd and
The Wine Society. Half bottles are also a smart choice if you want to start with, say, a white wine with a light starter then move on to red with a hearty main.
Sweet and fortified wines also suit small sizes.
I always have a half bottle of dry sherry in my fridge, usually a supermarket own brand (most are made by famously good sherry houses) as they’re such brilliant value and are great to cook with as well as to sip while you’re stirring. Fino or manzanilla styes make a lovely crisp aperitif but need to be drunk within a couple of weeks of opening (no great hardship in my house), while dry olorosos and amontillados give more depth and richness, and last much longer.
Half bottles are also ideal for solo diners. Singleperson households are at an all-time high, another reason supermarkets are carrying more small-format bottles. Everybody should be able to enjoy a glass or two of wine with dinner; small bottles keep both your bank balance and your liver happy.