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The Hidden Truth Behind House Wine: Why You Should Reconsider Your Order

Why you should think twice about ordering house wine

Ordering wine at a restaurant can be a daunting task, especially when faced with a list of unfamiliar options. One term that often appears on menus is “house wine,” but what does it actually mean? In this article, we will explore the concept of house wine and why you might want to reconsider ordering it.

The murky definition of house wine

According to sommelier Jared Hooper, the term “house wine” is intentionally vague and can mean different things at different establishments. It could refer to a special wine created exclusively for the restaurant, or wines that the restaurant wants to sell quickly, such as the last few bottles of a case or overstocked inventory. The lack of a clear definition makes it difficult for diners to know exactly what they are getting when they order house wine.

The appeal of house wine

Despite its ambiguous nature, house wine remains a popular choice among restaurant patrons. EverWonderWine explains that house wines are often very drinkable and affordable, making them an attractive option for those looking for a budget-friendly choice. However, it’s important to note that the quality of house wine can vary significantly from establishment to establishment.

The downside of house wine

While house wines may save you a few dollars on your bill, some experts argue that they may not be worth the compromise in quality. MSN warns against ordering house wine, stating that while it may be cheaper than other options, it is often not significantly less expensive and may not offer the same level of quality. Wine Weekly takes an even stronger stance, advising readers to never order the house wine, especially in the United States, where it is often perceived as the cheapest wine available, sold at a great profit to unsuspecting customers.

Choosing a better option

If you want to avoid ordering house wine and still stay within your budget, there are alternative strategies you can employ. Wine Weekly suggests looking for a “safe bet” on the wine list, choosing a varietal you are familiar with, or asking your server for a recommendation. This approach allows you to explore different options without compromising on quality. Alternatively, you can take the opportunity to try something new by asking about wines that pique your interest. Showing curiosity and asking questions can enhance your dining experience and demonstrate confidence.

Bottom line

While house wine may seem like a convenient and cost-effective choice, it’s important to consider the potential drawbacks. The ambiguous definition of house wine and its varying quality make it a gamble for diners. By exploring other options on the wine list or engaging with your server, you can enhance your dining experience and discover wines that truly satisfy your palate. So the next time you find yourself in a restaurant, think twice before ordering the house wine and explore the world of possibilities that await you.


House wine is a term used to describe the wines on a restaurant’s menu. It can refer to a variety of wines, including special wines created exclusively for the restaurant or wines the establishment wants to sell quickly.

Why is the definition of house wine so vague?

The term “house wine” lacks a specific definition because it can vary from restaurant to restaurant. Different establishments may have their own criteria for selecting wines to offer as house wines.

Are house wines of lesser quality than other options?

The quality of house wines can vary widely from restaurant to restaurant. While some establishments may feature high-quality wines as their house wines, others may choose wines that are more affordable or overstocked. It’s important to consider the reputation and expertise of the restaurant when evaluating the quality of their house wines.

Why do people order house wines?

House wines are often perceived as a safe and budget-friendly option. They are generally affordable and can provide a decent drinking experience. However, it’s important to note that the quality of house wines can be hit or miss.

Is it worth paying more for a wine other than the house wine?

While house wines can save you some money, it’s worth considering whether the potential compromise in quality is worth it. Depending on your preferences and what the restaurant has to offer, it may be worth exploring other options on the menu that will suit your tastes and provide a better overall experience.

How can I avoid ordering house wine without breaking my budget?

If you want to explore alternatives to house wine while staying within your budget, consider looking for a “safe bet” on the wine list. This could be a varietal you are familiar with or asking your server for a recommendation. By engaging with your server and showing interest, you may discover new wines that better suit your tastes.

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