Some occasions demand the half-bottle, or "split," of wine rather than a full bottle. These occasions include the limo ride between church and wedding reception, the last half hour in a goose blind and a solitary lunch on a Mediterranean patio (or in front of a television set). But that is not by any means the limit of the lowly split's appeal.
I say "lowly" because the split is much abused, not by consumers but by winemakers, as being expensive to produce or awkward (they don't fit many bottling machines). Winemakers also resist the split because it tends to prevent people from drinking as much as they might from 750- milliliter bottles.
The split should be a means of increasing wine appreciation and consumption, rather than limiting it. Splits perfectly harmonize with current sentiments about moderation, good health and quality in life. Single people are reluctant to open a full bottle when they are dining alone and thus often have no wine at all.
Couples who like a glass of white wine first, then a red with dinner, often forgo one or the other and sometimes both because they don't wish to drink an entire bottle of either. Splits dissolve the problem. The attractiveness of splits doesn't end there. Wine ages faster in splits, which means you can drink those half bottles of cabernet, pinot noir and C.ote R.otie much sooner than the full-size ones.
Splits might have been designed for a fast-paced, more impatient society of professionals. They take up less room. They allow greater overall diversity in wine drinking and in general are economical, even if they cost about 50 cents more than twice that amount of wine would bring in a single bottle. If you buy splits by the case, and you should, the difference is minimal.
Wine shop owners say splits are difficult to obtain, and yet many do stock them. Shop around, for the selection is surprisingly broad and bargains exist. Some of the better values are listed below, followed by a list of generally available splits. (Three good local stores to shop for splits are A&A Liquors, MacArthur Liquors and Chevy Chase Wine and Liquors.)
Look for the '76 Ch.ateau Haut-Beychevelle-Gloria, $6; '80 Ch.ateau Talbot, $5.50; '80 Duhart-Milon-Rothschild, $6, all ready to drink. Put away the '78 Ch.ateau d'Issan, $8.50; '81 Ch.ateau Pichon Lalande, $8.50; '78 Ch.ateau Haut-Bages-Lib,eral, $10 and the Ch.ateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, $14.50. Almost ready are the '79 Ch.ateau Meyney, $5.70; '79 Ch.ateau Prieur,e-Lichine, $7; '79 Cos d'Estournel, $9, and the '82 Ch.ateau Monbousquet, $4.50.
Good age in reds is available in CUNE's splits of the '70 Vina Real Grand Reserva and the '70 Imperial Grand Reserva, about $4. Italy offers Mastroberardino's '78 Taurasi for $4 and Sacardi chianti classico for $2.50. Many of Guigal's red Rhones are available in splits. The '79 Gigondas is $4, the '81 white Hermitage $3.50. Chateau de Beaucastel's '80 soft chateauneuf-de-pape is $5.
Good whites include the Clos du Bois '82 chardonnay, $4.60; William Hill's '82 chardonnay, $4; Ch.ateau Carbonnieux, a Graves, for $5.50; Domaine de la Batardi,ere muscadet, $3, and Louis Latour's '81 bourgogne, $3.80.
Note: Splits take up half the space afforded most wine bottles in ice chests bound for the beach.