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Wine: Drinking the Half of it

Half bottles, while not abundant, can be a better choice for some wine drinkers

If you like wine - but not too much of it - it is time to check out the half-bottle varieties. They're only 375 milliliters and equal to only two glassfuls of wine, as opposed to a standard bottle, which is 750 milliliters.

The popularity of half-wine bottles fades in and out with years, but many merchants are stocking more than a few. They won't always have the same brand, so it pays to shop regularly if you're a value-hunter.

Half-bottles are available at some restaurants - although they may not be well-promoted. For one thing, the establishment certainly makes more money of selling wine by the glass, with fewer markups on bottles. The advantage, however, is for the diner who wants to order a bottle of good red wine, but has a companion who may desire to try a white wine. It also allows diners to experiment with finer wines without the expense of ordering a standard size bottle. Even better, a white can be enjoyed over appetizers and a nice red can be consumed with the meal, or vice versa.

On the home front, the halves make it easy for one spouse to enjoy wine, even if the other may not be in the mood. It also decreases the battle over a taste for different wines.

There are drawbacks to half-bottle sizes. First, they're not exactly half the price of the larger size. That's due to production - the line has to be set differently to fill the smaller bottles. Second, smaller bottles cannot be kept for long periods. The aging process is accelerated - some say twice as quickly - as there is less air in the bottle.

The advantages, however, seem to outweigh the minor disadvantages. Half-bottles make terrific stocking stuffers (champagnes and sparkling wines are especially popular) or great gifts for any occasion. For low-end consumers who enjoy fine wines, the flavor is often diminished greatly when re-corked and refrigerated.

Keep in mind that a half is different from a "split." That's a 187 ml bottle for single servings. One popular split is in the champagne category, which has become very popular at clubs with a younger clientele.

So, now you can go out (or stay at home) and have your wine - and halve it, too.

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