Great wine can be found at great prices, which is why we typically stock a "house wine" on our shelves. House wine let's you:
- Spend a bit less on wine by serving something that is better than its price;
- Take advantage of economy of scale by driving the per bottle cost down using case (12 bottle) discounts;
- Use some discretion when serving guests who aren't as picky (or whose tastes not as sophisticated); and
- Avoid blowing an expensive high end wine for that "last bottle" when friends are over.
When choosing a house wine, use our three main criteria that it
- Be broadly pleasing, i.e. something that most can enjoy;
- Outperform its price point, i.e. seem better than what you'd expect for the price; and
- Cost no more than $15 per bottle when purchased by the case (in most cases we're looking at house wines in the $8 - $12 range).
We typically choose a new house wine by trying a lineup of different options, and then purchasing the winner by the case until we tire of it or until it becomes (at least temporarily) unavailable. We tend to stock a house red in the colder months (we find less of a need for a house white), and both a house red and white in the warmer months.
Thought it may not seem so in some parts of the United States today, May is halfway through, which means we're in the transition from red wines that go with heavier food in winter, to lighter refreshing white wine options to take us through spring and summer. Today we've one white recommendation alongside two lighter reds.
Le Paradou Viognier 2015 ($8.99/bottle by the case)
Why we chose it: We recommended the Paradou Viognier with Brie in our recent five wine and cheese pairing lineup, but Viognier works very well as a house wine if you can find good stuff in the right price range. Le Paradou is fresh and balanced with a floral nose. You might note hints of pear, apricot, and dried mango or pineapple on the palate. It is elegant and creamy with cheese.
What to look for: We typically think Viognier is a better Old World wine, though don't shun one from California is you find a bottle that works for you. While Virginia makes absolutely stunning Viognier, you're best be here is to look for a less expensive French variant like Le Paradou. Most boutique wine shops will be able to get you a few samples to try.
The Originals "Red Wine" NV ($9.75/bottle by the case)
Why we chose it: This is a smart red blend whose broad appeal makes it perfect to serve to folks with varied taste. It shines on the "broad appeal" front, pairing nicely with food yet totally drinkable on its own. We found this wine's most striking feature to be hints of soft chocolate on the palate. Otherwise you'll find it to be bright and fruity with notes of earth and spice. Try it with cubes of a semi-soft goat cheese.
What to look for: The cooler climate Washington state red blends will be less big and potentially overwhelming than the California counterparts. Sample around and give them a try.
Barone di Bernaj Frappato 2013 ($8.99/bottle by the case)
Why we chose it: The Frappato grape, though somewhat rare in the market, makes easy drinking wines that are well suited for the house wine scene. This particular winery was founded in the mid-1940s makes a nice lineup of other varietals. Their Frappato is going to give you hints of dessert strawberry.
What to look for: Our recommendation here is for a Frappato specifically. Uniquely fruity but dry, Frappatos are a nice choice for drinkers just getting into red wine, but makes a good casual sipper for more experienced drinkers as well. You won't find them in every supermarket, but a local wine merchant can probably track down an order for you.