Thursday 2 August 2018

A little of what you fancy

Wow, look at the size of that wineglass! It’s as big as an entire bottle of trendy rosé! 

Well no, actually. This is rosé wine in a teeny tiny 25cl bottle.

There are two shelves full of these little pocket-sized buggers, 20cl and 25cl, on sale for around £3 at my local M&S. And they are in the supermarkets, too, at about £2. You can hunt in vain for a decent selection of half bottles, let alone some of those clever 50cl, 2/3rd size bottles I wrote about recently. But I walk into an M&S, and there are shelves full of Lilliputian bottles, an astonishing range encompassing wines of all colours and kinds.

I presume they are targeting people who just want “a glass of wine”. Perhaps that’s why I’ve never noticed them before. Or people who only have the ready cash for a third of a bottle? No, they wouldn’t be shopping in M&S.

Or are they for cooking? Recipes casually call for a “wineglass” of wine, without ever specifying the actual size. Is that a white wineglass – or a red? A Paris goblet – or a Riedel bowl? Whatever; a mini-bottle is precise, and better than opening an entire good bottle to fuel a coq au vin, even if that’s the perfect excuse to finish the said good bottle.

Perhaps these dollshouse drinks could be handy on a picnic? I ask this warily because, between Mrs K and I, the difference between a picnic and a packed lunch has been the recent subject of an interesting discussion (or, depending on which of us you are, "a pointless argument”). My notions of a picnic require, for example, an aesthetic venue (you can’t have a picnic on a bench); shared foods (you can’t have individual sandwiches on a picnic – that’s a packed lunch); and plates (whereas you can eat a packed lunch out of your individual Tupperware boxes). And a picnic certainly involves wine, which a packed lunch certainly does not. Cute little screwcap bottles, each to their own picnicker’s colour and taste? Seems like a good idea.

There are other advantages to the mini-bottles. If you’re my friend Anthony, they’re ideal for trousering into a certain Premiership stadium, so that his wife Sue can enjoy a decent glass of wine rather than the filth they serve in their bars.

You could put them out for dinner guests who want to monitor their consumption precisely, or for that one person who wants just a glass of white when everyone else is sharing a bottle of red.

And they’re wonderful if you want to play at aeroplanes, since these are in-flight size. To enjoy this game at home, simply divide one person’s supper into two tiny meals, transfer them into foil cartons, then sit by your partner on a sofa eating them from trays on your laps. For added authenticity, every so often, lurch violently. And you will find that your tiny bottle of wine inexplicably morphs into a luxury item, a reflection of status, an indication that you are a glamorous, international jet-setter.

By restaurant and even pub standards, £3 for a glass of wine is pretty good value. I went for this one because I fancied a rosé on a hot evening; because it was 25cl rather than 20cl (that extra sip makes all the difference); and I was intrigued by a bottle with a figure like a Barbie doll. I am also amused by the idea of a miniature of rosé, in an era of yacht rosés in giant bottles the size of fire extinguishers.

Sadly the wine itself was a disappointment. I thought it was tight, sharp, and lacking in fruit flavours, but with an edge of bitterness like a soluble aspirin, the sort of taste you get in your mouth when someone has just sprayed a fly. M&S is kind enough to do the maths, and tell us on the shelf that this £3 miniature represents £9 for a full 75cl bottle – at which they do indeed sell it. I wouldn’t pay it, but there it is.

But, hang on a sec – because that is actually extraordinary. Here is a third of a bottle – at a third of the price. 

We’re used to half-bottles being well over half-price, which retailers blame on fixed costs like bottling and transport. But you can pick up these miniature bottles of wine at the same price pro rata as a full bottle. Having accepted the half-bottle excuses over the years, I don't understand how this works, but it seems to be the case.

So you can enjoy all of that stuff above – the fun, the convenience, the variety, the portability, the smaller initial outlay – without it costing a penny more.

Do you know what? It’s a little tempting…


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