The first time I bought a half-bottle of wine wasn’t intentional. I was lingering over the pét-nat section in my local wine shop when I spotted a bottle I didn’t recognize. (I moved into this neighborhood in April of 2020, which is to say I’ve spent a lot of time shopping in this particular store and I’ve gotten to know its stock pretty well.) It was dark brown glass with a quaint illustration of a wolf hiding among sheep— El Impostor, a dry Chilean Cinsault. “Have you had that yet?” the shopkeeper asked me. “It’s very good. I drank one last night.” “Oh, so I should buy one, then?” I replied. “No,” she said, gesturing to the size, “you should probably buy two.”
Now before you come for me, yes, I know at 500 milliliters this was technically a two-thirds bottle of wine, rather than a true half-bottle — but you know what I mean. It’s still a smaller-than-standard bottle, and bigger than a single-serving can of wine. That night, I chilled one of the bottles — I’d taken her advice and purchased two — and popped it open. The wine itself was tart and lovely, a gorgeous red color. Just a little bit sour beer-y but, you know, still wine. But what struck me most was the bottle size. My partner and I each sipped a glass and change before there was nothing left to pour, and quickly realized it was the perfect amount of wine for a random Tuesday night when we both wanted a glass of wine, but didn’t want to commit to an entire bottle. Well, it was almost the perfect amount of wine for a random Tuesday night — there was a slight run-in with a full glass and my living room rug that required emergency cleanup. But other than my being a clumsy idiot, it was perfect.
It’s simple. Stupidly obvious, in fact. How had I never considered just… buying smaller bottles of wine? In our house, we often debate over whether or not to open a bottle during the work week. This is partially my fault, since most of my favorites are effervescent and kinda funky; I don’t care how good your reseal device is, those wines never taste as good on the second day. They just don’t. And, personally, I can’t commit to drinking half of a bottle of wine myself on a school night. If you can, I’m jealous and I’d like you to teach me your ways. But as somebody prone to aggressive hangovers that come on like the 11th plague of Egypt, that’s just too risky for me on your average Wednesday.
But with a half-bottle, there’s none of that. There’s also none of the self-imposed guilt I often feel when opening a bottle half the contents of which will end up later running down my sink drain. Similarly, I don’t feel the pressure to drink more than I would otherwise want to in an attempt to curb waste. The humble vessel is as functional as it is cute.
Since then, I’ve found myself seeking out half-bottles more and more, asking at wine shops and restaurants to see what they’ve got on offer. It also turns out half-bottles are an easy answer to the question that so often kicks off a meal out with a group: “Red or white?” Got somebody who only drinks white? Great, a half-bottle it is. Somebody who says they’ll drink white if they must but you can obviously tell they are lying to be polite and would absolutely prefer red? Fantastic, order half a bottle of Merlot, and everybody is happy. My only complaint is that I wish they were easier to come by. I know I cannot be the only half-bottle fan out here on the hunt. Give the people –– me –– what they want!
To illustrate my point, I’ve noticed that particular Cinsault sells out quickly at my wine store. Now, whenever I spot it on the shelves, I like to stock up on as many as I can carry. The other day, the person ringing me out asked me what I liked about it so much that I was compelled to buy a half dozen bottles. “Honestly it’s just the perfect size,” I said. They nodded knowingly back at me from behind their mask.