When browsing a wine list, particularly the “by the glass” section, chances are one of the choices on said list will be the establishment’s red and white house wines. The prices are usually pretty good, but unless you’re out looking for a deal, you’ll probably pass it by and tell your companions to do the same. The reason you typically choose to overlook these specific glasses probably has to do with some article you read some time ago, or a comment you heard made by an acquaintance, both of which characterized an establishment’s house wine as the cheap wine they’re actively trying to get rid of. The plonk they don’t even want to drink, but hope you are foolish enough to order. For the most part, this simply isn’t true.
While at lesser establishments this may be the case – but you shouldn’t be eating at these places in the first place – at good restaurants that take the drinks they serve seriously house wine is nothing to be afraid of. In fact, it’s just the opposite. It’s your safe go-to bet when you can’t seem to choose among everything else that’s on offer. And it’s why you should have a “house” wine at your home when you entertain as well.
People will always be suspect of wine-by-the-glass programs, but as we’ve said before, if the restaurant you’re dining at actually wants you to return – and let’s face it, unless the owner of the restaurant happens to have his establishment built on top of a spigot that pumps out gold, they all do – they’re going to ensure the wine available by the glass are offerings you’re going to enjoy. That goes for the house wine as well.
So what’s house wine anyway and why should you care? Usually, house wine is the red and white offerings that the restaurant feels would be most appealing to the largest number of guests. Sometimes these are wines the restaurant originally had on the list not labeled as house wines that became a favorite among guests and therefore elevated themselves to the “house” status, while other times they are wines the restaurant has identified as easy-drinking sippers that tend to go well with almost anything you would order. While in either case these wines probably won’t blow you away with their complexity, they will be perfectly fine to enjoy while you happily consume your meal. Remember, just like any other drink, from beer to spirits, there is a time and a place for every type of wine. While it’s fun to drink wines that just make your brain go crazy with excitement, sometimes just a simple glass is all you need, in the same way some occasions may call for an IPA or fancy cocktail while others go perfectly well with a lite beer or whiskey on the rocks. Be wary of anyone that would tell you differently.
The reason the wine is usually more affordable than the other glasses available isn’t because the restaurant is trying to unload unwanted bottles on you, but because they’ve purchased a lot of these “house” bottles, and therefore have gained a discount from the distributor. In wine purchasing, discounts exist for restaurants and shops if they purchase in bulk; the more wine purchased, the bigger the discount. A house wine’s low price is usually the restaurant just passing the savings on to you.
And this brings us to why you should take a lesson from restaurants and have a case of your own house red and white on hand when you entertain. While it’s fun to open many different bottles, having a crowd pleaser on hand is a great strategy for appealing to that guest who may not be that adventurous, or for opening at the end of a long night when everyone wants just one more bottle. It’s also great to have your house wine on hand when you have the impromptu drop in from a friend or at the last minute you’re headed to a party and you need to bring a bottle with you. Knowing you have a quality red or white to rely on is much nicer than agonizing over what you might open or bring.
Choose your house wine in the same way a restaurant might: identify a bottle of red and white that you not only enjoy but that your guests seem to really like as well. Then purchase a case of each – taking advantage of the case discount you should receive from your wine shop – and every time you start to run low, either purchase the same case, or switch it up. Now you too can easily entertain and have a stress free bottle to open at the last minute whenever you need.