Choosing a “house wine” – what are your criteria?

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.


About Dave McIntyre

Wine columnist for The Washington Post, co-founder of, and blogger at Dave McIntyre's WineLine (
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9 Responses to Choosing a “house wine” – what are your criteria?

  1. Jim Dolphin says:

    2012 St Cosme Cotes du Rhone $11.99 (by the case( at Arrowine)

  2. Jennifer M. says:

    When I consider a “house wine,” I look for a wine that pairs well with a variety of foods and doesn’t break the bank. Lately, blends from emerging wine markets – Argentina, Australia and Spain – seem to fit the bill.

  3. Les Hubbard says:

    Dave , For over 40 years I’ve looked to Chile for our house or quaffing wines, which balance price and quality. Considering we consume about a bottle with most dinners, price becomes important. Our current quaffing wine, which I wouldn’t be afraid to serve to quests, is Santa Carolina’s Vistana, Cabernet (60%)/Merlot (40%) blend sold in 1.5 liter bottles at from $6.99 to $7.99 retail. I buy so much of it my colleagues in the wine aisle poke fun at me every time I pick up a bottle.
    Les Hubbard

  4. Adrian B says:

    Good question Dave!
    I would always advise to look ‘off the beaten track’, try wines like Bodegas Castano’s Hecula (old vine Monastrell from Yecla in SE Spain) or Amano’s Primitivo (Puglia) – both available for under $10 and both more than adequate ‘house reds’ whilst the weather is cold!

    • Dave McIntyre says:

      Gascon would be a good choice One of my early faves was Domaine de Pouy, a Gascon white from importer Bobby Kacher. It actually hasn’t crept up in price that much over the years.

      Sent by Carrier Pigeon


  5. Pingback: Wine of the week: Michel-Schlumberger Maison Rouge 2011

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