Doing it by Halves

POSTED ON 07/06/2014

I ‘m puzzled as to why a more extensive selection of half bottles isn’t available on retail shelves and in restaurants and bars. If I’m driving through Champagne , I like to detour via the Aube region to pick up a 24 half-bottle case of Drappier’s delicious rosé Champagne. Having halves on hand is just the ticket for theatre intervals, for an apéritif for one or two and for gifts when I can’t think of anything else. If I lived alone, I’m sure I’d be grateful for more half-bottles, but for some reason, there never seem to be enough.

The wine trade was inundated with half-bottles in the 1990s, but collectors’ subsequent demands for bigger-is-better saw a move away from half-bottles to magnums and even larger format bottles. Half-bottles are not just handy but the wine inside matures more rapidly than in a 75 cl. bottle. Given the flagging interest in young Bordeaux, you might have thought that its châteaux would be on the case, as it were, producing boxes of 12 half-bottles as a way of re-engaging with their customers, but they’ve been slow on the uptake.

Champagnes, fortified and sweet wines are styles that suit half-bottles or half-litres well, but you can also pick up handy halves of claret, chablis and New World wines if you know where to look. One useful source of halves is, an online site offering a range of champagne half-bottles along with classy wines such as Australia’s generously fruity 2010 Wirra Wirra Church Block, £6.80, Rustenberg’s succulent Bordeaux blend 2009 John X Merriman, £9.75, the fine 2007 CVNE Imperial Reserva Rioja, £11.70, and New Zealand’s burgundian 2011 Mt Difficulty, £12.95.

According to Anthony Field-Johnson from Bordeaux Index, ‘the demand for half-bottles is huge’. Edward Gerard, wine & spirits buyer for Harrods, which has a mouthwateringly extensive halves list from muscadet through Château Rauzan-Ségla to Krug Rosé, agrees there are not nearly enough half-bottles around to cope with the demand. Try also Tanners for its juicy, peppery 2012 Douro Red, £4.90, and the Wine Society for its extensive lists of good halves under The Society’s own label, not forgetting the exquisite, viscously rich, caramel and prune-like Blind Spot Rutherglen Muscat, £6.95.

I’ve recently enjoyed a delicious half-bottle of Manzanilla Pasada, £7.99, Marks & Spencer, intensely yeasty on the nose with a dry, almost salty, nutty tang to the richly full-flavoured fruit and, a must for claret lovers, the bright, engagingly cherry and cassis-like 2010 Château Livran, Médoc, cru bourgeois, £5.99, Majestic. Half-bottles and sweet wines are made for each other, in which context, the 2011 Rustenberg Straw Wine, on special offer, down from £12.99 to £8.99, Majestic, is a luscious elixir oozing peaches and honey fruit with a refreshing lemon peel zestiness.

Something for The WeekendSomething for The Weekend

Night in

2011 Codorníu 1872 Vintage Brut Cava

What better way to start Saturday evening at home than with a good fizz, like this biscuity little vintage number from Spanish giant Codorníu whose mouthfilling, creamy-textured mousse explodes on the tongue. £7.99, down from £11.99, until Tuesday, Waitrose.

Vaucluse Grenache Syrah

At its remarkably modest price, you could be forgiven for assuming that this Southern Rhône blend is just rotgut plonk but, on the contrary, there’s sweet dark berry aromas here and lots of bright, quaffable brambly fruit that’s juicily moreish. £4.29, Morrisons.

Dinner party

2009 Primo de Conti Côtes de Bergerac

This Bordeaux blend from Château Tour des Gendres comes over claret-like, but its deliciously ripe blackcurrant fruit with its stylish veneer of vanilla oak and succulent texture punches above most Bordeaux at the price. £10.99, Marks & Spencer.

Splash Out

2012 Chablis 1er Cru Mont de Milieu, Sainte Céline, Domaines Brocard

This fine chardonnay from an excellent vintage for white Burgundy has all the hallmarks of top premier cru Chablis, subtly fresh aromas, textured peachy fruit and a mouthwateringly bone dry mineral finish. £19, Sainsbury’s.

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