Half the bottle, Twice the choice!

Cathy Marston wrote an interesting article re half bottles on Wine.co.za. She asked me for a few comments which I happily did. It is quite sad that there is so little interest in educating the public more about the benefits of half bottles.

I agree with Fiona that PET bottles may be a great option (weight & cost wise) but they have a very limited shelf life at present and are too high risk for us to consider at this time. At 55% of the cost of a full bottle there is not much logic to Mark’s comment re cost.

I often put half a full bottle in the fidge planning to drink it the next day, only to end up going out or away. I then come back to a half bottle that goes straight to the bin! So the waste factor with full bottles are much higher when not finished.

We do not distribute the half bottles widely, but they are available online via the Vrede en Lust eStore and we deliver across the whole of South Africa. They come in cases of 12 half bottles so 4.5L in total per case.

Here are the questions raised by Cathy and my comments:

1. Why do you use them?
We saw a gap in the market for smaller servings, as most wineries do not produce 375mls. It is hard enough trying to get unique selling points in the wine industry!

There is a good market for 2 glass servings of wine, although it is still significantly under developed at this stage.

2. What are your biggest markets for half bottles?
Hotels, lodges and hospitality establishments including luxury trains

3. Why do you carry the extra cost of bottling in half bottles?
In order to serve our customers better and to help differentiate Vrede en Lust from its competitors.

4. Are your bottles local or imported?
They are local, but pricing is tough as there is not enough volume in the market

5. Why do you think more wineries don’t make use of half bottles?
Can’t speak for them but I suspect it is seen as expensive cost wise and more stock items to carry.

6. Do you think they gain you extra customers?
Yes, for sure

7. What do you perceive are the benefits of drinking wine in half bottles?
It really depends on the market served:

  • For people living or traveling by themselves it provides 2 glasses of quality wine without drinking too much or wasting too much.  The singles market is a very significant niche today.
  • For couples it may allow one to have 2 glasses of white wine and while the other drinks 2 glasses of red or another type of beverage.
  • It also allows couples to each have a glass of say white wine with the starter and then a glass of red wine with the main course vs. the cost of 2 equivalent bottles of wine.
  • The other alternative is often wine by the glass, which may often be of inferior quality or oxidized.
  • When on diet it allows my wife and I to each enjoy only 1 glass of wine and keep the calories down :-)

8. Do you plan to continue making wine in half bottles?

9. Do you know of any other wineries in SA using half bottles? I know of Graham Beck’s fizz but that is it!
Asara used to make 375ml bottles too?

10.  And anything else you would like to say really?
Restaurants often avoid offering half bottles as they say they are worried about selling less wine. I think this is a mistake, as it will often allow them to sell better quality  (thus higher priced) wine vs. the house wines.

Sometimes a bottle is just not enough, but two bottles is too much – by offering half bottles it increases sales.

In a restaurant environment, it also allows clients to better mix and match wines to different courses, without the need for an extensive wine by the glass range.

We started off by selling the half bottles at half the cost of the full bottles, but the steep increase in packaging costs over the past 2 years have forced us to sell the 375ml bottles at 55% of 750ml prices.