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Big Wine, Small Packages 

Half bottles offer versatility

When you just want a little, sometimes big jugs won't do. Full-sized 750-milliliter bottles of wine can be daunting when faced solo or with small change jingling in the pocket. So about 10 years ago, the wine industry answered the call with half bottles and splits. After initial popularity, little bottles disappeared for a while, but they're back with more variety than ever.The 375-milliliter shorties recently reemerged with little fanfare on retail shelves and wine lists around the Southeast, yet their versatility remains under-appreciated. Consumers should wake up to the fact that each bottle provides the perfect amount, 2 or so glasses, for a short, school-night meal.

As Americans slowly evolve into more of a dining culture as opposed to a shove-food-in-your-mouth-in-the-car-on-the-way-to-the-next-commitment culture, consuming wine becomes more important not only in its enjoyment but also for the health benefits. Half bottles allow us to consume moderate amounts of alcohol instead of getting hammered with a full bottle.

But for wine fanatics like me, smaller bottles encourage exploration. Because they're normally less expensive than their siblings, you can pair wines by courses and regions. Italy, France and Germany offer plenty of half bottles, and that expensive bottle of Chateau Blah Blah you've been eyeing may not be so exorbitant with a half bottle price tag.

Then there are those cute little 187-milliliter split bottles. Mostly used to house sparkling wines, they're also spotted on airplanes filled with regular still wine. Keep in mind that the sparkling wine inside is not "Methode Champenoise" -- the traditional way to instill bubbles in sparkling wines -- so the quality will not be a good as when you're buying a full bottle of bubbly.

There are downfalls to the little guys: they can cost as much as a regular bottle. Most wineries, the smaller ones especially, only have one bottling line -- designed for 750-milliliter. Bottling the half bottles is often farmed out or done the old-fashioned way, by hand, and the costs of glass, labeling and the wine itself are essentially the same as a regular bottling.

Next time you're debating on white, red or bubbly, or looking to expand your wine repertoire, remember you have the choice of buying a variety of shorties.

Recommended Wines
2001 Murphy Goode Reserve Fume Blanc This wonderfully fresh, balanced acidity Sauvignon Blanc will regress you back to the old, carefree days. $9/375 milliliter, $17/750 milliliter 1/2

1999 Beaulieu Vineyards Rutherford Napa Cabernet This is fantastic Cab, bursting with dark cherry, coffee and finishing with a sultry kiss. $14/375 milliliter $25/750 milliliter

Pommery Pop Extra Dry Sold complete with a plastic straw, these splits come from a Champagne house in France trying to stomp out the snobby image of sparkling wine. No special occasion needed to enjoy this slightly sweet, citrusy sparkler. $10/187 milliliter 1/2

Guigal Cotes du Rhne A fun, French Rhne grape blend bursting with red fruit flavors that don't let go. $7/375 milliliter, $12/750 milliliter

The Wine List

ARTHUR'S RESTAURANTS AND WINE SHOPS 4400 Sharon Rd. Mar. 19-New Zealand Wines; Mar. 25-France vs. California. Classes are held from 6:30-8pm. Light snacks and bread served. $20 per person. 704-366-8610.

BARONE'S WINE ROOM Birkdale Village, Huntersville, offers wine tastings every Wednesday night from 6-8pm. The cost is $10. Call 704-987-0011.

CAROLINA WINE CLUB Winter classes will be held at the Mint Museum of Craft + Design from 6:30-8pm. Four Series: Series III: Session III, Mar. 25-The Southern Rhone; Session IV, Apr. 1-Old Zinfandels and Zinfandel Port (rescheduled). Individual sessions $30; each series of classes $100. Call 704-344-8027 for reservations.

DEAN & DELUCA WINE ROOM 6822-G Phillips Place Ct. March tasting- T-Vine Vineyards. March 30, 1-3pm. $25 per person. Reservations required. 704-552-5283.

LA DOLCE VITA! Pasta & Provisions along with Sir Edmond Halley's has planned a wine dinner on March 27 at 7:30pm to be held at Sir Edmond Halley's, 4151 Park Rd. $85 per person ($10 credited toward wine purchases). RSVP to Josh at 704-364-2622.

NECTAR 1730 E. Woodlawn Rd. Wine tastings are offered the last Tuesday of every month from 5:30-7:30pm. Six wines tasted, which will follow a monthly theme. $15 per person. 704-519-4174.

REID'S 7TH ST. WINE SHOP Wednesday Night Flights-5:30-7:30pm, very informal. Three wines will be tasted each week, $10. Four For Friday-Festivities begin at 4pm. $20. Call 704-513-7014.

SOMETHING CLASSIC AT THE VILLA 715 Providence Road. Wine & food tastings are held from 5:30-8pm on the third Wednesday of the month. Call 704-347-3666.

SOUTHERN SPIRITS Winter Wine Classes: March 19, The Wines of Oregon and Washington, $20. March 26 & April 2, Wines of the World, $40. All classes are held from 7-8:30pm. Located on Hwy 521, 3 miles south of Ballantyne. Call 803-548-8888 to register.

THE WINE SHOP 2442 Park Rd. Sit Down, Tutored Tasting: The Wines of Piemonte with Rino Varaldo & David Bryant. March 26, 7pm. $30. Call 704-377-5373 or email info@thewineshops.net for reservations.

Wine tastings, classes, or other wine-related events will be listed at the discretion of the editors. Send information one of three ways: Fax to 704-944-3605; email to lindsey.herman@cln.com; or by regular mail at 6112 Old Pineville Rd. Charlotte, NC 28217.

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