I AM very pleased to announce that my wine column has a reader – and one prepared to put pen to paper for me.
He writes: “My wife and I like to share a bottle of wine. We like to stick to the combined daily healthy limit of around six units. This corresponds almost exactly to a 50cl wine bottle, whilst 75cl contains nine units or more. I am sure you understand how difficult it is to leave that final third untouched.”
Indeed I do, Mr Reader. The point is, he’s challenging more retailers to supply 50cl wine.
There are various reasons why you may want to buy 50cl wine – either midweek to avoid the temptation of a full bottle, or for fewer alcohol units.
I asked some questions – and discovered that Marks & Spencer appears to offer the best range.
Andrew Bird, M&S Head of Trading, Drink, explains: “The range came from customer research showing that for many couples a full 75cl bottle was a little too much to drink in one go, yet they were unwilling to re-stopper the wine in case they didn’t come back to it for several days (not to mention that the wine might have lost freshness).
“We also liked the fact that the 50cl size allowed us to sell really good wines from quality producers at a lower price than the 75cl equivalent – such as a good claret for under £5 or a great Sancerre for under £8 – and we thought it might be an innovative way to introduce customers to higher quality wines.
“The one inescapable fact is that a 50cl wine bottle, the stopper, the label and the cost of putting it down the bottling line all cost the same as the 75cl equivalent. Even though the bottle uses less glass, it is a relatively unusual size so the glass manufacturers do charge more.
“It can be difficult to sell the product at exactly two-thirds of the price of a 75cl bottle, which is perhaps why other retailers don’t really try. At M&S we think it’s worth investing a little to allow customers to have the extra choice – after all we’ve sold small 25cl bottles very successfully for many years.”
Here are some 50cl wine options
Châteauneuf-du-Pape les Closiers 2009 (£11.99). A famous blend from southern Rhône. This one has grenache, syrah, mourvèdre and cinsault at its heart. It has ripe fruits on the nose with a fleck of white pepper and soft, rounded red berry, herby fruits to taste. Add a touch of class to supper.
Fleurie 2010 (£6.99) is from one of the 10 crus villages, which produce the top notch wines from Beaujolais. This is an avalanche of fresh red fruits, typical of the gamay grape, but with an added refined elegance.
Sancerre Les Ruettes 2010 (£7.99) is fresh with subtle citrus and hints of Loire Valley minerals. I had a glass with a bowl of herby, lemony, musssels and (I’m proud to say) pasta made with my own fair hands. It was a delightful match.
My culinary ego moved over to make room on the table for Southern Winds Sauvignon Blanc 2012 (£5.99). A zingtastic New Zealand SB with typical gooseberry, grass and lemon flavour flashes.
Finally, a pink to match my Bank Holiday sun-shocked nose.
Le Froglet Rosé 2011 (£4.19) combines syrah and merlot from Languedoc and has a wispy rose perfume with crisp red cherries to taste which say “we won an award you know” and indeed they did – a silver at the 2012 International Wine Challenge.
Other 50cl wine choices? At Asda, First Cape lines are on offer until June 20, at £3 from £3.98 and 50cl Blossom Hill bottles are available at £3.98. At Waitrose, Cave de Lugny Chardonnay 2011 Macon – Villages is £5.99.
Also in my glass
In my search for good 50cls I came across a terrific selection of half bottles (35cl) from Tanners Wine Merchants including Tanners Douro Red 2011 (£4.45). It’s a deep red packed with the punchy grapes which in another life are the base of port.