It was fairly early on in my outing promoting Tablas Creek, earlier than, I feel, I would even moved out to Paso Robles. I went to a terrific restaurant in Washington, DC, and acquired right into a dialog with the proprietor and wine purchaser. We have been speaking about what her favourite bottles have been to advocate on her record, and she or he mentioned that if individuals have been open to it, her favourite bottle wasn’t a single bottle… it was two totally different half-bottles, one in all which (I bear in mind) was the Coudoulet de Beaucastel. This, she mentioned, gave her company the possibility to pair totally different wines with first and predominant programs, and supplied extra variety and worth than wines by the glass. I’ve all the time remembered that dialog, and we have bottled our Esprit de Tablas and Esprit de Tablas Blanc in half-bottles since earlier than they have been referred to as Esprit de Beaucastel and Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc.
On the similar time, half-bottles aren’t straightforward. I had a Twitter change final week with Amber LeBeau, whose SpitBucket Weblog is changing into a must-read piece of the dialog on wine, at the least for me. She was suggesting that half-bottles must be nicely positioned to make the most of the patron’s rising curiosity carefully, and puzzled how rather more it price wineries to make them. Click on through to Twitter to see the entire thread:
Oh, and I ought to point out that we don’t promote the wine for two/three the value as a result of if we did prospects would by no means purchase it. So we promote it for primarily half plus a greenback and eat the remainder of the additional price.
— Jason Haas (@jasonchaas) May 29, 2019
I really feel like 280 characters (OK, instances two) was sufficient to put out the primary challenges for us with half-bottles. They’re costly, as a result of the bottle, capsule, cork, and label price simply as a lot as a full bottle would, and the patron (with purpose) would not wish to pay greater than half as a lot for half the wine in a full bottle. Within the cellar, you need to cease and recalibrate your bottling line, which slows you down, and you need to supply smaller plenty of every little thing, which is pricey. And like all alternate-size codecs — we see the identical challenge with magnums and kegs — there’s all the time the problem of transferring on to the subsequent classic on the proper time. It is a nuisance to everybody to have offered out of your 750ml bottles however nonetheless have a number of orphaned instances of half-bottles in distributor inventory, as a result of the reps are unlikely to wish to pattern a classic of a wine that is solely accessible in half-bottles, whereas buying managers will not often deliver within the new classic of half-bottles till the previous one is gone.
Nonetheless, we carry on making half-bottles for 2 causes. I do really feel that it is an extremely customer-friendly option to supply wine, notably if you happen to subsidize the value, as we do, so it finally ends up at roughly half the value of full bottles. And second, I’ve all the time felt that as a result of there are numerous fewer half-bottles made than there are full bottles, the half-bottle record is a spot the place we are able to stand out. Even on large wine lists with lots of of bottles, the half-bottle choice is probably going a single web page of perhaps a dozen choices. I’ve all the time preferred our odds in that quick record.
However with the expansion of by-the-glass applications, and notably the high-end glass pours enabled by the widespread use of the Coravin, I’m wondering if the times of the half-bottle are numbered. I do know that we have revised downward the variety of instances of half-bottles that we have bottled steadily over the past decade, to maintain them in steadiness with the demand we have seen. At our apex within the late 2000’s we have been bottling 450 instances every of our Esprit and Esprit Blanc in half-bottles. By the early 2010’s we have been right down to 250 instances of every. Then 200, then 150. Final 12 months we bottled simply 125 instances of every. This 12 months, it is going to be solely 75. Certain, we are able to deliver again the unsold inventory on the finish of the discharge and make a particular value for our membership members, however finally, if individuals aren’t that occupied with shopping for wine within the half-bottle format, we would be foolish to proceed to make it.
So, a query to you all. Do you want wine in half-bottles? Do you purchase it? If that’s the case, the place? For house consumption, or out at eating places? And are there particular sorts of wines you order in half-bottles? I am curious. As a result of if you happen to’re a lover of those smaller codecs, as I’m, it looks like our days of with the ability to discover them could also be numbered.