Wine & Food

Snooth User: EMark

Why do not more restaurants offer half-bottles of wine?

Original post by EMark, Apr 9, 2012.

This is, probably, not the most compelling wine issue of the day, but it has long bothered me that restaurants might offer wines by the glass or wines by the bottle, but very rarely do they offer wines by the half-bottle.  To me half-bottles offer elegant solutions to two different dining scenarios:

  • I’m dining alone.  I definitely want wine with my dinner, but I certainly do not want a whole bottle (more money that I want to spend and more wine than I want to drink), and I don’t particularly want to buy by the glass (questionable quality and, once the first glass is finished we’re back to being gouged in the wallet).
  • I’m dining with my wife, and she has a white wine craving while I have a red wine craving.  Either one of us has to compromise (not  necessarily a bad thing) or we are looking at buying by the glass,

In answer to my question, I am proposing a few posible reasons why restaurants do not see things my way.

First, there might be an issue with profit margins.  If a restaurant is charging $45 for a bottle of something, then the customer is going to expect that the price for a half-bottle of the same wine will be $22.50.  For argument’s sake let’s assume that the restaurants markup policy is 3 X cost.  So, the wine they are selling for $45 cost them $15.  More than likely, the half-bottle cost more than $7.50—probably, more like $9.  So, if they charge $27 for the half-bottle, they have to hope that the diner is sophisticated enough to know that the per unit price rises as the quantity purchased decreases.   That is probably not a bad assumption.  I suspect that most people who would consider a half-bottle know that if they bought it in a retail store, their cost would be more than half the cost of a 75cl bottle.

Second, offering half bottles complicates your inventory control—one more thing that has to be tracked and reordered-- and your storage requirements—one more thing that has to be stored someplace.  So, the restaurants costs will rise.

Third, this is a problem that really does not exist.  It may be that I am the only person who likes half-bottles.  OK, I suspect that I am not the only person, because I am aware of restaurants that do offer half-bottles, but it may be that sufficien customer demand just is not there.

Is there anybody else out there that would like to see more half-bottles on restaurant wine lists?

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Reply by dmcker, May 31, 2012.

Hey, no problems with one or a couple after-dinner grappa or brandy or marc or highland single malt or calvados or aged Venezuelan rum or... Not to mention ports and madeiras and marsalas and other variations in the vin santo direction. Also tokajis and sauternes/barsacs. Not so much that bourbon--after dinner, anyway.

Point also understood about the dessert wines. The thing is, once you get into a d'Yquem, you don't want that experience to end. Two or more of us *always* finish that bottle, no matter what goes before--and almost cry when the soldier's dead. If it's just me, I'll usually settle for a glass of something from the list above, depending on what's on the wine list.

Hell, if I worked myself back down to my best fighting weight of around 90+kg (200lbs or so), I'd probably have an even greater thirst.  ;-)

Reply by Wisequeen Donna Jackson, Jun 1, 2012.

one answer is: good winemakers prefer not to do halfs as it oxidises too quickly. apart from extra hassle. In Italy this problem is solved by vino svuso. which they bring in a half or quarter carafe to your table. In the case of the upper end of the market, many bars  now have a "machine" which stands on the bar and distributes the right amount into a glass and then properly reseals the bottle.  this way you can have a glass of wine without always having to drink the house wine by the glass that they offer.

have you considered asking for the cork after you order the big bottle and taking the rest home for later?reds are always better on the second day.

Reply by EMark, Jun 1, 2012.

No, Donna, I had not considered that, but I agree.  It is a perfectly workable idea.

Reply by EMark, Jun 12, 2012.

Restaurant tip for 714 and 949 Area Code residents.  Peggy and I had lunch, today, at Zov's in Tustin.  (I guess they also have other locations down there behind the Orange Curtain.)  I was quite impressed that on their wine list, which is modest but respectable, every category included a choice of 375 ml bottles. 

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