Read at Wine Enthusiast
House wines in Europe are often associated with local culture and cuisine, offering a taste memory of the places travelers are passing through. These wines are easy to drink, economical, and produced nearby.
Wander into a trattoria, bistro, gasthäus or taberna across Europe and order a glass of red or white wine in the plainest language, and you'll get the house wine. Reliably easy-drinking, economical and well-suited to the local fare, this wine was probably produced somewhere up the road. It doesn't require much thought, nor will it blow your mind, but there's romance in it all the same-as an accessible taste memory of the place you're passing through.
In the United States, the concept of house wine has historically been associated with commercial-grade, private-label pours that were forgettable and cheap. However, this is changing as sommeliers are now partnering with boutique winemakers who align with their values and ethos. Restaurants are embracing exclusive-to-them wines as a meaningful extension of their brand identities.
In the United States, the words "house wine" come with an entirely different set of baggage. At best, the phrase historically signified a commercial-grade, private-label pour that tastes reliably like California Cab, albeit forgettable. At worst, it was code for, "What's the cheapest wine you have?" That's changing, however, as more sommeliers forge genuine bonds with boutique winemakers who align with their ethos, and restaurants buy into exclusive-to-them wines as a meaningful extension of their brand identities.