Anthony Rose: Why aren't more half bottles of wine available?

 

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Indy Lifestyle Online

I'm puzzled as to why a more extensive selection of half bottles aren't available on retailers' shelves and in British 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, apéritif time and for birthday gifts for the hard-to-buy-for people. If I lived alone, I'm sure I'd be grateful for more half-bottles, too, but for some reason, you can't seem to find them.

According to Anthony Field-Johnson from Bordeaux Index, "the demand for half-bottles is huge". Edward Gerard, wine and 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.

What's odd is that the wine trade was inundated with half-bottles in the 1990s. However, a growing demand among collectors for bigger and bigger formats saw makers turn their attention to magnums. Half-bottles are not just handy, either – the wine inside matures more rapidly than in a 75cl 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 customers, but they've been, as ever, slow on the uptake.

Champagnes, fortified and sweet wines are all styles that suit half-bottles (or half-litres, for that matter), but you can also pick up handy halves of claret, chablis and New World wines if you know where to look. One useful source is halfwine.com, an online site offering a range of Champagne half-bottles along with high-end 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.

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, nut tang. And, a must-try for claret-lovers, the bright, cassis-like 2010 Château Livran, Médoc, cru bourgeois, £5.99, Majestic.

There are some good half sweet wines too, 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.

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