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Half Bottles Get No Respect

Half bottles of good wine are a tough sell to consumers. There are a number of reasons for this. Splits do not fit into conventional racking, the wine inside ages about twice as fast as wine in a standard 750 ml bottle, and a half bottle is just not celebratory at meals. There are, however, a lot of good reasons to choose half bottles. The rapid aging can be an advantage, giving the taster the opportunity to enjoy the wine sooner. The smaller format allows the consumption of several wines paired with different courses at a meal. Small bottles can be perfect companions for picnics, especially for two, and they travel easily. The half bottle is an ideal format for high alcohol dessert wines where consumption is limited to smaller amounts. A split is ideal for a sole imbiber (how much good left over wine have you poured down the sink?). An empty half bottle is also a perfect overnight storage vessel for wine left over from opening a standard bottle.

Half Wit Wines (www.halfwitwines.com), located in San Francisco, carries over 1,500 selections of fine wine in half bottle format. They also provide free shipping. I found a number of attractive Pinot Noirs on their list including 2004 Au Bon Climat La Bauge Au-Dessus ($19), 2002 Calera Reed ($27) and several other Calera bottlings, 2003 Fiddlehead 728 ($23), 2003 Keller Estate ($18), Papapietro Perry - several bottlings ($27-$30), 2004 Saintsbury ($18), Scherrer - several bottlings ($16-$19), 2004 Testarossa Palazzio ($21), 2003 Windy Oaks Proprietor’s Reserve ($27). There were a number of half bottles of Burgundy from Alex Gambel, Faiveley, Drouhin, Latour, and Potel. Oregon Pinot Noirs included 2004 Bethel Heights Casteel Reserve ($25), 2004 Elk Cove ($14), 2005 King Estate ($16), and 2004 Lachini Estate ($24).

There are a number of fine retail stores that carry a selection of half bottles as well. Generally, a store’s profit margin is less with half bottles so they do not promote them. If you just can’t get yourself to open your wallet for expensive Pinot Noirs, try a half bottle and you will get the full experience for a little over half the price.

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