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03.09.2004

Finding Half Bottles of Wine Online

Ode to wine in the half bottle:

A good thing in small package, preventer of DUIs, savior of single bachelors, facilitator of multi-wine dinners for two, perfect picnic companion, easily backpackable, saver of cellar space, goodness.

Isn't it a pain that when you go to any wine establishment, you really only get a small selection of half bottles to choose from? OK, so maybe you're not a big half bottle shopper, but as a former bachelor who only on the best of nights could actally bring myself to finish an entire bottle alone, I bought a lot of half bottles, which is about the perfect size for a nice dinner where you want some wine, but also want to be able to drive home.

I've had fantasies of setting up a Web site to sell only half bottles of wine. While I think it's a great idea from a customer service perspective, its a really bad business idea. So instead I've decided to do a little sleuthing on the Web and offer these sources for procurement of 375 Milliliters of joy.

UNITED STATES:

Sam's Wine, Chicago, IL
I got 211 results from their site searching on half bottles. They are a reputable retailer (I have bought from them before) with a great selection. Online and telephone sales.

View their half bottles: http://tinyurl.com/2lhmk

K&L Wines, San Francisco, CA
Their site has 89 half-bottles available for purchase. Many are Sauternes and other dessert wines, but there are quite a few gems, like the 2002 Patz & Hall Chardonnay, available, as well as some very rare wines, like a 1934 Mouton Rothschild (at $325). Online sales or by phone.

View their half bottles: http://tinyurl.com/2jngm

Wine.Com, Napa, CA
They carry a reasonable set of wines by the half bottle. Most are the usual mainstream crap, but they have a few wines by people like Estancia and Saintsbury that are worth drinking. Online and phone orders.

View their half bottles: http://tinyurl.com/2togb

MacArthur Beverages, Washington, DC
An interesting group of (some rare) Italian wines by the half bottle. Phone orders only.

View their half bottles: http://tinyurl.com/2bylf

Weimax Wines, Burlingame, CA
A decent selection of various reds and whites including some classic favorites like Rombauer, Grgich Hills, and Far Niente. Order by phone, no online sales.
http://www.weimax.com/half_bot.htm


INTERNATIONAL

1855.Com, Paris, France
This France based retailer has the largest selection of half-bottles that I have ever seen. Literally hundreds and hundreds in every category and every price range. It's unclear, however, how much they will charge to ship to the US. Online and telephone sales.

View their half bottles: http://tinyurl.com/3yowm

Finestwine.com, Hong Kong & France
This is a new Internet retailer for me, but I was quite amazed to see that they claim to carry 691 wines by the half bottle. It turns out that they are very focused on higher end wines, and also a little overpriced, as their cheapest half-bottle starts at $69. However, if you are looking for 375 ml of that 1999 Pauillac Lafite Rothschild, you got it for $289.00. And free shipping. They are based in Hong Kong and France, and have a sales office inthe US as well.

The link below is to their advanced search. Select 375 ml as a search term under "bottle size."
http://www.finestwine.com/english/adv_search.asp

Comments (13)

Alicia wrote:
03.10.04 at 11:26 AM

Interesting. I was just trying to persuade our winemaker of the virtues of small bottles yesterday. He's not convinced they'd sell, and there's a higher cost-per-gallon involved.

Thanks for offering a little support for the cause.

Alder wrote:
03.10.04 at 12:02 PM

Thanks for the comment. I can understand your winemaker's position, and can easily believe that the bottling costs are higher for smaller formats. I also don’t think they probably sell very well, despite my comments. But on the other hand, I would expect margins to be higher on them? That may be naïve of me, but that's what I would guess. Perhaps the two offset each other.

I really like half bottles, as my post suggests, but it seems like they are much more common in Europe than here in the US. Perhaps its just a matter of time?

Thomas Jones wrote:
03.10.04 at 8:16 PM

Sounds like our state's wineries would be well served by stocking more half bottles.

Ps: I quoted you briefly on my own weblog. I tried that trackback thing, but I don't think I did it right.

Harry Levine wrote:
07.14.04 at 7:47 PM

I am curious why you think it is a bad business idea or model. I to am intrigued by the notion of selling half bottles over the internet. I would focus most of my energy however on being a distributer that deals exclusively in half bottles that would be marketed to large hotel chains and restaurants.

Alder Yarrow wrote:
07.16.04 at 9:20 AM

The margins on half bottles are very small, much smaller than regular bottles, and I think the consumer demand would not support even an online retail operation. Perhaps your idea of making businesses your main customers would be a better route to go.

Dennis Mitchell wrote:
09.08.04 at 11:54 AM

Hi there! Thanks for the tip on your site about places with half bottles...I work near Burlingame so I stumbled into Weimax. Great selection of half bottles and I enjoyed a visit to their tasting room, too! (They had a Harrington Pinot Noir which I rather liked, along with Long Vineyards Chardonnay and a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.)

And the crew there gave me some tips on some wines under $10 which I found to be really amazing and priced about what I had wanted to pay for a half bottle of wine. I got a dry white from Gascogne, a Cotes du Rhone for $6.99 which was good, a couple of five dollar Spanish reds which were surprisingly good and a good Pinot Gris for $4.99!

Thanks for mentioning this place! I am bringing a friend there this coming weekend for some tasting.

Amy wrote:
04.05.05 at 6:06 PM

I bought 6 cases of half bottles for my graduation in 2003 through windsor vinyard. They no longer offer the 375ml size - much to my dismay because I am in the market for another 6 cases!!

chickpea wrote:
06.03.05 at 10:35 AM

I'm all in favor of half bottles. I drink one glass at max per sitting!

12.04.05 at 4:07 PM

What an interesting blog to stumble over! I am sorry I didn't get here a year ago. I am a principal of The Half-Bottle Wine Club and all of you bear out my basic idea that the half-bottle is the best way to explore for wines and enjoy a good wine when dining singly. We have a great and ever-growing portfolio of half-bottles and our wine club is, to our knowledge, the only club shipping half-bottles each month. Our website is in the process of being moved onto a more professional and easy to manage e-commerce platform but please drop in and look around: www.e-halfbottle.com - and please sign up for our newsletter -or even join the club! And please drop me an email of your own half-bottle experiences. We are always looking for new stories of the ubiquitous 375ml bottle.

Christopher Koller wrote:
01.17.06 at 5:20 PM

Thank you, this is a great blog. My wife and I enjoy half bottles very much, and find it difficult to find good varieties. As far as the pricing issue goes, go to Wallmart and you'll find something that costs five times more or less than it took to produce on every shelf... I don't have to tell you that classical economics have been out the window for a while. Your business success--I can tell you from experience--will have nothing to do with bottling costs going from 750 - 375 ml, or the smaller volume as that relates to real wine drinkers. Sure, the wine maker will be concerned with these costs and practicalities, but those are nothing more than abstractions to a determined entrepreneur. The online dealer should have no trouble carving out a niche. Image is perhaps more important than whether you sell to individual clients online or to businesses directly. Can you recommend a smooth-finishing, good mouth feel cabernet in half bottles? Thanks again.

Alder wrote:
01.18.06 at 8:49 PM

Chris,

Thanks for the comments. Try the half bottles of the Cabernet I just reviewed today, called Parallel. You may find it to your taste.

John D wrote:
08.01.06 at 9:41 PM

This jogged my memory to an ad in the back of WS for halfwitwines.com -- very large and worldwide selection.

gordon wrote:
08.22.06 at 5:34 PM

Thanks for the mention of HalfWitWines.com. We took the plunge and are offering an extensive selection of half bottles of wine--only half bottes--at our site.

It's a tough business but there is an untapped demand. We're warehousing (temperature controlled, of course) about 1000 different wines.

Wish us luck!

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