A Big Travel Retail Market for Small Wine Bottles?

Along the sun-baked Central Dalmatian coast of Croatia lies the seven cities of Kaštela. Built to protect inhabitants of the Venetian Empire from the invading Ottoman Turks, these seven cities of Kaštela, that my wife and I affectionately refer to as ‘The Seven Cities of Zin’, are the genetic home of the Zinfandel grape. While exploring this region with our friend Srđan Mitrović in 2013, I was determined to bring home a few bottles of the region’s incredibly delicious wine, but had very little room in my luggage.

“Why aren’t there more half bottles of wine for sale for tourists?” I asked, swirling a glass of velvety, fruity, and peppery Zinfandel.

“I’d love to sell half bottles, but the winemakers simply are not producing them,” replied Srđan.

For the connoisseur, flying home with a few bottles of exotic wine to enjoy with family and friends is ideal, but seldom feasible with ever tightening baggage restrictions. The average bottle of wine weighs roughly 1.5kg (3.5lbs), which will quickly drain that precious 23kg baggage weight allowance.

Apart from the health advantages of moderating one’s consumption, it also seems that people like the idea of dropping half wine bottles (375ml) into stockings during the holidays. According to the search results from Google’s Keyword Planner, November and December see a spike in queries for ‘small bottles of wine’.

So why are the winemakers not producing wine bottles in more diminutive sizes? According to the Wall Street Journal’s Lettie Teague, wine ages faster in smaller bottles and they are often priced higher on a per milliliter basis. For retail establishments and restaurants that cater to locals, this presents a real problem. However, for the money-wielding tourist, the higher price tag for a special bottle is less of a concern. Plus, their friends and family back home will insist upon drinking that half bottle in half a New York minute, making the faster aging time irrelevant.

Tourpreneurs in the international wine industry may want to encourage local wine makers to conjure up a few half bottles for sale. Bigger margins and bigger demand for smaller bottles could lead to bigger profits and bigger customer smiles.