Thursday 21 July 2016

No half measures – renaming the half-bottle

I’ve been drawn back to the idea of half-bottles. Of sitting down for supper, on the nights Mrs K is out or isn’t drinking, with my own half-bottle of wine. Modest, disciplined and controlled.

It’s so hard to drink an accurate half from a full bottle. To allow for that narrower bit in the shoulder. To avoid overdoing it on the first night, which leaves you with too little on the next; or underdoing it (underdoing it?) on the first night, which means you have to finish off a little more than you’d like on the second. And yes, I could get a 375ml carafe; it just seems a bit pompous for a Taste the Difference Rioja.

But there are problems with the half-bottle. On the one hand, there is something abstemious about it. It has an air of stinginess, of parsimoniousness. Of the tucked elbows and individual portions of in-flight dining, or the loneliness of the supermarket meal for one.

At the same time, there’s an unfortunate feeling of selfishness. Rather like The Rifleman’s Creed.  This is my half-bottle. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My half-bottle is my best friend. And you can all keep your hands off it, because there is just enough here for me and me alone.

And worst of all, there is the name. A half-bottle. The very word suggests you are missing out on something – specifically, the other half.

So, what if the half-bottle became a unit of measure? If it gained a name which, instead of describing it as a half-unit, as half of something else, recognised the 375ml bottle as an item in its own right?

For instance, ordering Guinness in Dublin you do not order a pint or a half-pint. You order either a Guinness, or a glass of Guinness. The measure is understood.

And you do not buy a double-bottle of wine;  you buy a magnum, which immediately makes the consumption of two bottles sound dignified, rather than greedy. What the half-bottle needs is a similar name, which gives it back its dignity and stops it sounding petty-minded.

There are one or two little-used names for smaller bottles already. I’ve seen a half-bottle of Champagne called a “fillette”, but that is clearly not going to work for any bloke already concerned about the impression they’re conveying.

And I suspect someone stepping up to a bar and saying “I wanna Split” might reasonably get the response “Well bugger off, then.”

(Actually the term ‘Split’ refers not to a half-, but to a quarter-bottle, like those ridiculous mini-bar bottles of champagne the size of a carrot. As anyone who has encountered anything smaller than a half-bottle knows, it’s better to call that an Aberration.)

And I think we can only ignore CJ’s suggestion that a half-bottle be dubbed a Miser.

But in wine, we have all those Biblical names for larger-than-single bottles. Great long collisions of underused consonants, like Nebuchadnezzar and Melchizedek. Well, perhaps a half-bottle could have a little Biblical name. An Abel. A Job. Or a Jonah – he was clearly doing things on his own.

Or imagine that a half-bottle was called, say, a Solo. Or, given that most things improve when they’re described in French, like steak haché and l’escargots, how about a Seul. Or an Individuel.

Suddenly, it would be something really cool to ask for. “What have you got in Solos?” “I’ll have a Seul of Bordeaux, please.”

It would be clear that your Individuel was for personal consumption, and not for sharing. That it was something in its own right, and not half of something else. And that whether at home or in a restaurant, it was a dignified manner of drinking alone. Solo. Seul.


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