Tips & Techniques

The Best Kept Secret on the Wine Menu

March  3, 2016

Any wine enthusiast loves the thrill of the hunt, a feeling I'm reminded of every time a waiter hands me a wine list.

But then that unnerving feeling creeps in: Now I have to choose. And things get more complicated when you have to take others into consideration, and not just their preferences, but also the food and, of course, the budget.

But, there is an option out there that can make these challenges a bit easier: half bottles. Not all wine lists have half bottles, but they seem to be popping up more and more—which is a very good thing.

Gotta catch 'em all! Photo by James Ransom

Here's why:

1. There's no need to compromise.

A full bottle of wine can be limiting. What if the wine you want with your starter is different than the wine you want with your main? Or what if you want red and your dining companion wants white? There is no better way to accommodate different preferences at a restaurant table than half bottles.

2. You waste less.

If you are the only drinking one type of wine, a full bottle can be too much. You can order wine by the glass, but that is more expensive per sip, you don’t know how fresh it is, and your options are limited. Half bottles are (usually) stored properly, they offer two full glasses, and you know exactly when they are opened.

3. You can try more wine.

Good wine lists are a real treat: They are a curated collection put together by an expert with care and thought. Choosing just one bottle from this treasure trove can be tough, but half bottles allow you to try more selections without the commitment.

4. The wine ages faster.

Half bottles age a bit faster than their big brothers, as the oxygen in the bottle has a greater affect on a smaller volume of wine. This may not seem like an obvious benefit (and maybe we are stretching a little here), but you pay more for older wines; with half bottles, you don’t have to wait as long to experience the same benefit.

5. While you pay more, it’s less of a financial commitment.

Half bottles tend to be more expensive per milliliter than full bottles, but they also give you the opportunity to try wines that would normally be outside your budget. For example, I love white Burgundy but can't drop over $100 on a bottle of wine in a restaurant. But I can sometimes find a half bottle for $65, and there are times I would rather have a little less of a nicer thing.

What's your favorite half bottle? Tell us in the comments below!

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Tamara Lover, an accredited sommelier, is Co-Founder of a start-up called Bottle Rush, a company democratizing wine by giving everyone their personal wine expert to help them find wines they’ll love, not like, but love. Tamara’s passion for wine began like most wine love affairs – with one delicious bottle of wine. While dining at a restaurant in New York City, the sommelier recommended a wine that would forever change her life. One sip of the Pinot Noir blew her away. By the end of the glass, Tamara knew how she wanted to spend every moment of her spare time - finding that next great bottle of wine. In 2008, Tamara graduated with her WSET Diploma of Wine and Spirits (DWS) from the International Wine Center (IWC). She was also a weekly wine columnist for the Gothamist for five years and inducted as an honorary member of the Compagnons du Beaujolais, a historic Burgundian wine society. Tamara resides in NJ with her husband and two children. Feel free to ask her any wine related questions – especially about her favorite wine hacks.

1 Comment

Andy March 4, 2016
I love 1/2 bottles. This is my current favorite: Piglets from EIEIO & Company in Carlton, OR.