PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 August, 2005, 12:00am

Whether you view the world as a glass half-empty or half-full, you should never have to leave a wine bottle half-empty.

Historically, wine has been sold in many bottle sizes, but these days 750ml is the industry standard. There are, however, a few wayward bottle sizes lurking on shelves. Largely named after biblical kings, these imposing bottles range from the Jeroboam (which has the capacity of four standard bottles) to Nebuchadnezzar (20 bottles) to a novelty bottle created in 1958 called the Adelaide that held 1,000 litres of wine and weighed a whopping 100kg - when empty.

While large-format bottles never fail to impress, the petite half-bottle (375ml) is rapidly gaining the industry's attention. Half-bottles, which hold two to three glasses of wine, are convenient for solitary diners, sport friendlier prices and lessen concerns about drinking and driving. These nifty little bottles are especially attractive to new wine drinkers who find them less intimidating, and to ageing boomers, who find them less wasteful.

With such a list of advantages, why aren't there more of these elusive little bottles in the marketplace? Gallerie du Vin (tel: 2591 9028) carries 19 half-bottles, City'super (tel: 2506 2888 for the Causeway Bay branch) offers about 20 and Watson's (tel: 2147 3641 for the Central store), one

of the largest retailers in town, has 46 choices on its shelves. Wine importers agree that half-bottle sales are on the rise, but complain it is hard to source the little numbers.

So why aren't wineries bottling more wine in these user-friendly quantities? Producers find the diminutive bottles awkward to handle and complain that half-bottles cost them almost as much as standard-sized formats, leaving slim profit margins. More importantly, they argue bottle size has an impact on a wine's development. The airspace between the liquid and the cork in an unopened bottle is much the same whether in a half- or standard bottle. Thus, 2.5cm of airspace in a half-bottle has a more powerful impact on the wine than in a larger bottle. Because exposure to oxygen hastens ageing, some experts argue that wine matures twice as fast in a half-bottle.

Riedel Glass Company, never one to miss an opportunity, noted the trend to imbibe half-bottles by offering an elegant 375ml crystal wine saver ($1,695) at its store, Town House, in the Prince's Building. Immediately upon opening a bottle of wine, one pours half into the decanter, quickly sealing it with a crystal stopper. The reduced airspace in the decanter does extend the wine's life a day or two, though don't expect Methuselah-like results.