The Truth About House Wines
According to many wine experts, one should never order the “house” wine at a restaurant. Everyone has an appropriate horror story: it’s the cheapest wine the restaurateur could find; it’s left over from another diner; it’s been warming on the radiator since breakfast.
In certain circumstances avoiding the house wine may be a good idea. The restaurateur may have found too good a bargain. But restaurants usually shop in the same places that you and I do, and generally pay comparable prices. There may be unscrupulous restaurateurs who reserve leftover wine, and some who don’t care enough to keep the house wine in good condition or to dump it when it’s past its prime. But, thankfully, these are rare.
In fact, the house wine can be one of the best indicators of how much a restaurant cares. It’s the quickest way to find out what kind of quality and attention go into the restaurant’s “cellar”. Often the better restaurants are proud of their house selections and may announce them along with the evening’s specials. The wines may even have been brought in specially to complement the featured dishes.
On the other hand, there is the “House Red / House White” syndrome. This restaurant serves wine because it has to, not because it wants to. The staff may not even know the origin of the wines. They may be perfectly all right, but they could just as easily be a big disappointment.
So order the house wine. If they’ve gone out of their way to offer up something nice–and at a decent price — then there’s a good chance they care about wine in general, and you’ll have a better chance of choosing a good bottle from their list. No doubt they will also have a wine person available who can help you with your selection.
And if the house wine is dreary, then make do with one glass and save your money for a restaurant that cares about wine as much as you do.