Thirsty work

Dudley News: Thirsty work Thirsty work

Fancy a drink? Our drinks columnist Sam Wylie-Harris calls time on full-sized bottles of wine and suggests some little gems to grace the table.

Halving the pleasure Curbing your thirst to appreciate a smaller sip not only has its health benefits but tipplers and singletons can experience a wider range of wines without the guilt of cracking open a full bottle.

With a growing trend for sizing down from 70cl to 37.5cl bottles, wine lovers can show a smidgen of virtuous restraint while still indulging in a really nice vino at an affordable price.

Kevin Dilton-Hill, founder of online wine shop Halfwine.com, says: "The new year always ushers in resolutions to be more healthy and nothing, except abstinence, is more healthy for a wine drinker than half-bottles of wine.

"A half-bottle of red wine has about 255 calories, and a half-bottle of white wine has about 275 calories, the equivalent to a pint of beer or two gin/vodka and tonics."

Halfwine.com's new year range features two dry whites and two healthy reds - ideal for couples who share different tastes or anyone stuck in a wine rut.

To ring in the changes, try Halfwine's New Year Collection (£39.15, four bottles, www.halfwine.com), which includes a fresh, forward sauvignon blanc, Domaine Masson-Blondelet, 2010 Sancerre, Thauvenay, France; a classic steely chablis, William Fevre, 2009 Chablis, France; a Burgundy from the famous winemaking village of Gevrey-Chambertin, Harmand-Geoffroy, 2008 Bourgogne Rouge, France, which is drinking beautifully as half-bottles mature faster than normal size; and a full-bodied, brambly sangiovese, Fontodi 2009 Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy.

Another source for handy halves, Laithwaites has a broad range which includes another lovely sauvignon blanc from the Loire Valley. Try the fragrant Abbesse De Loire Sauvignon Blanc Half Bottle 2011, Val de Loire VdP, France (£4.79, www.laithwaites.co.uk) for its crisp, lemony fruit, zesty freshness and attractive minerality. And with an "R" in the month from now until the spring, it's the perfect partner with half-a-dozen oysters, shellfish or goat's cheese.

Despite their popularity, it's not easy to find an extensive range of half-bottles from the New World as most winemakers prefer to size up with a magnum which ages more gracefully and has longer cellaring potential.

However, the French, with their Old World charm, are less likely to shy away from half measures and it's worth noting that vintage matters, especially with whites which evolve faster in smaller bottles - and the same for champagne.

Half-bottles are a blessing for red wine lovers who don't have the patience to wait for a wine to age, or who fancy a sneak preview of how the flavours will mature, such as the 2009 Bordeaux which has been cited as one of the greatest vintages ever.

To dip into some ripe 2009s, cases of basic claret offer good value, with Chateau La Fleur Coterie 2009, Bordeaux (case of 24 37.5cl halves, £124, www.goedhuis.com/020 7793 7900) drinking well without the chewy tannins you'd find in a full-size version. With smoky blackberry fruit, oak and underlying tannins, this merlot-dominant bottle has lots of fleshy appeal.

Alternatively, try La Reserve Claret 2009, Bordeaux (case of 24 37.5cl halves, £130.80, www.fromvineyardsdirect.com) for a dense, textured wine with crunchy red fruit from the merlot and cabernet sauvignon and notes of cedar wood and spice on the deliciously fresh finish.

From another great vintage and surprisingly approachable, Chateau Malbat 2010, Bordeaux (£4.35, www.tanners-wines.co.uk) is super ripe and super smooth with velvety fragrant fruit. It's a rewarding sip with a Sunday roast.

Heading south to the Rhone wine region, Chateau du Grand Moulas 2011, Cotes-du-Rhone, M Ryckwaert (4.80, www.tanners-wines.co.uk) is a rustic little red that's big on flavour. The earthy, savoury fruit, pepper and spice are backed by a herbal element.

Admittedly, when it comes to thinking about our waistline, sweet wines are higher in calories and a guilty pleasure to be sipped and savoured in tiny quantities.

Chilean winemaker Tabali hits the right note with its Tabali Late Harvest Muscat 2010, Chile (£6.99, www.virginwines.co.uk). With its delightful honey and apricot fruit, orange blossom nose and sensuous mouthfeel, it would please the palate of an angel.

:: Best buy Fine wines at fair prices... Berry Bros & Rudd's January sale is in full swing and with savings of up to 40%, wine lovers have a golden opportunity to snap up special occasion wines for the year ahead. Along with a string of reds, whites and roses from talented winemakers across the globe, there are special reductions on champagnes and sparkling wines while stocks last. To view the full sale range, visit www.bbr.com/sale :: Liquid news Yorkshire winemaker's first blush... Leeds-based Leventhorpe Vineyard has been producing still white wines since 1989, but to celebrate its 10th anniversary of white fizz, the vineyard has released its first sparkling rose.

Leventhorpe Salmon Blush 2010, Yorkshire, England (£20, plus £10 delivery, info@leventhorpevineyard.co.uk) is the latest edition to George Bowden's portfolio of still and sparkling wines which have been recommended by Jancis Robinson and Oz Clarke. A pretty coral pink with a delicate fruity palate and fresh aromas of citrus and honey, it's a delicious reminder of how we should appreciate English sparkle.

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