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You should be able to bet on the house when ordering wine

How to Drink Better: There is no shame attached in ordering the house red or white, which should be carefully chosen options to suit the restaurant’s food

Q. What is a house wine and should I order it in a restaurant?

A. A house wine is typically the least expensive wine on a restaurant list. There will usually be a white and a red, although some restaurants offer a choice of two or three of each. This is a good idea as you can choose from different styles of wine. House wines are usually available by the glass and sometimes in carafes of various sizes.

House wines have a bad reputation with some people, possibly scarred by past experiences, but there should be no shame attached to ordering one in a restaurant. A good establishment will go to some effort to source an inexpensive easy-drinking wine that goes with most of the dishes on their menu. After all their choice of house wine says a lot about them. It should reflect the style and quality of the restaurant and their attitude to wine. If the house wine is awful, is their food likely to be any better? A good restaurant will have spent time seeking wines from lesser-known regions that offer real value for money. As they will often be their best-selling wines, they can negotiate good prices with their supplier, so it should be fairly priced.

Don’t avoid wine served by the glass or in carafes; they can be very good too. Wine importer Winelab has done a great job convincing restaurants to serve house wines (and other wines too) from a tap. Their wines tend to be very high quality and it allows a restaurant or cafe to serve any size you desire.

Sadly, we live in a cynical world where some restaurants will buy the cheapest possible wine and gouge you on price. However, in my experience, most house wines are drinkable, although sometimes boring, and some can be very good. Don’t believe that the second cheapest wine will be any better. Restaurants are wise to this. And don’t worry about snooty waiters looking down their noses at you; that says more about them than you.


When eating out, I generally look at the selection of wines between €30-50 or up to €70 if I feel like splurging and the list offers good value. A restaurant should have plenty of interesting choices at that price; if it doesn’t, I go for the house wine.

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