What do you look for in a “house wine”? I usually find one or two inexpensive wines that over-perform for their price and then stock up on them for those casual meals at home, or a relaxing moment that calls for a glass of vino. But they should also be good enough to offer to friends who stop by.
A leading candidate for my house red this season is this delightful Paulo Laureano Tinto 2011, a $10 gem from Alentejo in Portugal. Despite being cheap, it offers a lot of fruit and fun, in a very attractive label. The Tierra Divina “Reds: A Wine for the People” from Lodi would be another candidate, though at $13 I might not stock up as much unless I found it on sale.
If you have any suggestions for how you go about looking for a “house wine” – if you do – please provide them in the Comments. Wine suggestions welcome, too!
These recommendations were published in The Washington Post on December 25, 2013.
Andrea Oberto Barolo 2009. 3 Stars Piemonte, Italy, $60. Supple and rich, like a comfy couch you can sink into. Blackberry fruit shines through the middle of this wine, yielding to an appealing earthiness characteristic of the nebbiolo grape. Give this one an hour or two in a decanter before dinner. Alcohol by volume: 14.5 percent. From Michael Downey Selections, one of my favorite local DC importers.
Paulo Laureano Tinto 2011 2-1/2 Stars GREAT VALUE Alentejo, Portugal, $10 What a classy little wine! Nothing complex, just juicy fun with great balance of acidity and no pretensions of oaky grandeur. This is an outstanding candidate for your “house red” for 2014 – stock up and drink often! ABV: 14 percent.
Gilles Louvet, Mon Pre Carre 2012 2 Stars GREAT VALUE Languedoc, France, $14 This is a fruity wine made in a carbonic maceration style similar to Beaujolais, but from the marselan grape, a cross of cabernet sauvignon and grenache. Underneath that flirtatious fruit is a hint of earth and a saline minerality that gives the wine structure. ABV: 13 percent.
Tierra Divina, Reds: A Wine for the People 2011 1-1/2 Stars Lodi, Calif., $13 This juicy red blend from old-vine lots of zinfandel, carignane and petite sirah comes to us from Patrick Campbell of Laurel Glen fame. The oak treatment is a bit heavy for a wine of modest ambitions, but the fruit is excellent – a good foil for burgers, pizza or steaks. ABV: 13.5 percent.
Orange River Cellars, Star Tree Brut 1-1/2 Stars GREAT VALUE South Africa, $10 This outstanding bargain sparkling wine is made from chenin blanc – a white wine specialty of South Africa. Don’t look for profundity, just fun. If you’re on a tight budget this holiday season, this is an excellent choice for brightening your celebration. ABV: 12 percent.