This is for all the single people, all those who sometimes find themselves alone during mealtime. It could be that you live alone or that you’re traveling alone, miles into a solo journey and holed up in a could-be-anywhere hotel — and you’re fine with that. These are your opportunities to acquaint yourself with the charms of the half-bottle of wine.
They are scarce, these little half-bottles, and when a friend of mine recently said that she wishes there were more of them available — that more producers used them for their wines, and more stores stocked their shelves with them — it got me thinking about when I first moved into my apartment years ago.
There’s a bay window in front, and it offers views up and down the street. In one direction, a tree-lined sidewalk seems to vanish into the middle distance. In the opposite direction, the sidewalk ends at a three-way intersection anchored by an imposing, old brick hotel. Both views were pretty charming to me when I first moved in, so I decided to slide a little round table with two chairs out into that little annex. Sometimes I also stuck a bouquet of fresh flowers in a vase on the table, as if the whole tableau were torn straight from a Flemish painting. I was so civilized back then.
I drank a lot of half-bottles of wine in that bay window with the dinners I had made for myself. There is nothing wrong with a standard wine bottle, but in case you’ve never never thought about it, the standard bottle is the perfect size for two people. Holding 750 milliliters (or about 25 ounces of wine), it’s enough for two people to have two or three glasses each over the course of a meal.
The half-bottle, at 375 milliliters (or 12.5 ounces), is the perfect size for one person. That is one of the reasons a trip to Europe is always so enchanting. Take away the ancient architecture, the charming city planning and the captivating history, and you still have the surprisingly small — surprisingly appropriate — food and drink portions. Little soft drink bottles, little glasses, little spoons and little plates. Not a super-sized thing in sight, except maybe a cathedral or museum.
For reasons that a neuroscientist or psychologist could probably explain, anything miniature is sort of intriguing to us. Little dogs, tiny cars and half-bottles of wine are automatically charming. Maybe they fill us with a sense of power, a sense of being a puppeteer hovering over them. I don’t know. I just know that when I am dining alone, and there is an open half-bottle in front of me, and part of that bottle’s contents has been poured into my glass, it all feels very focused and tailored to me.
Half-bottles have their drawbacks. They are probably not the most economically wise containers, and they are usually more expensive per ounce than their full-size versions. If a full-size bottle costs $18, the same wine in a half-bottle will probably cost more than $9.
On the positive side, when you have finished the contents of a half-bottle, you can keep and re-use the actual bottle and closure — whether it’s a cork or a screw cap. If you don’t finish off a standard bottle, you can pour the remaining contents into a half-bottle you’ve saved.
A half-bottle is for you. When you place one on your dinner table and pour from it, you’re not breaking off a piece of something bigger and dealing with the conspicuousness of leftovers. Instead, you’re enjoying that special little package as if it were made specifically for you. When you invite a friend or two over for dinner on any other night, you can open those full-size bottles and share them as they are meant to be shared.
Half-bottles are for the times you need to turn off your phone and turn on some music, or open a book, while you enjoy a meal with wine. They’re for the times when you get to sit out in that bay window, like a puppeteer hovering over the scene below, and practice the so-often forgotten ritual of communicating with yourself. A half-bottle is for you when you decide to allow yourself a break from … well, everything else.
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