Half and smaller bottle wines to try

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If you’re not doing dry January but want to cut back on wine drinking this month (or for longer), then one simple idea is to buy smaller bottles. Couples sharing a half bottle of wine – that’s 37.5cl – are getting one largish glassful each; and one person opening it can drink it up over two or three days without wasting any that has gone stale.

The demand for half bottles has increased hugely since the first lockdown, according to Victoria Stephens-Clarke, who runs The Little Fine Wine Company (thelittlefinewinecompany.co.uk). Since Covid struck, sales have increased tenfold, albeit from a small starting base. Now she sells over 140 wines in half bottles; the most popular include a Rustenberg red from South Africa at £9.95 and Nyetimber English sparkling at £18.95. “They’re bought by people living on their own, or couples who don’t want to drink much mid-week, or, often, as gifts to send to friends when we can’t socialise as much as we’d like,” she says.

Don’t expect half bottles to cost half the full bottle price though. The fixed costs, which include the bottle, label and transport, mean the price is likely to be around 60% or more. But if you regularly throw away wine from unfinished 75cl bottles this could still make sense financially, as well as helping that January booze cut-back. Buying halves might also lead you to try different wines more regularly; Stephens-Clarke has a diverse range, with labels from Austria, Oregon and Lebanon as well as better-known regions, and is putting a vermouth on this month.

The long-established, Shrewsbury-based Tanners Wines is another excellent source of half bottles (in one of their six shops in England and Wales, or by mail order tanners-wines.co.uk). There are over 55 on the website, including an especially notable collection of sweet wines and ports. If you want to embrace a healthier January, you might want to swoop on the refreshing and whistle-clean Dr Loosen Estate Riesling 2019, Mosel, Germany (£6.90/half) which is only 8.5% alcohol; or for celebrations this month (and there must be some!) try Tanners’ excellent, fresh citrus and biscuity, own-label Champagne Extra Reserve, France (12%, £17.50/half).

Perhaps a half bottle still feels a bit much, in which case turn to very small bottles that contain only one glassful. The best selection of these is without doubt from M&S. I tasted through a range of their 25cl size bottles and particularly like two from their Classics range: the M&S Classics No.34 Claret 2020, Bordeaux, France (13%, £3.10) which is soft and ripe with a core of rich blackberry, and the No.1 Bourgogne Chardonnay.

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