Why You Should Consider The House Wine

Posted: Oct 20, 2018

By Lettie Teague

Today, top chefs are working with talented winemakers to produce private-label wines to be proud of. For wine lovers, too, it’s worth stocking a go-to bottle at home

When I told Mr. Blondel that I bought the Champagne for $40 at Sherry-Lehmann, he seemed surprised by the number. “The value is much more than $40,” he said. I drank the Champagne very cold—as Mr. Ducasse does, Mr. Blondel informed me—and found it light-bodied and zesty, an attractive aperitif.

Restaurants aren’t the only places where you can find house wines. I know some oenophiles, including wine professionals, who buy a particular wine over and over again and call it their “house wine.” It’s usually —though not always—a wine that is reasonably priced and fairly easy to find. I can relate.

Although I taste different wines for a living and am always opening a bottle of something new, for the past few years I’ve had my own house wine: the Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso, produced by Marco de Grazia in the Etna region of Sicily. I started with the 2014 vintage and currently have half a dozen or so bottles of the 2016 wine.

The Terre Nere is not expensive—it costs about $18 a bottle—and it’s not fancy. But it’s reliably good. Produced from the Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio grapes, it’s food-flexible, too, with the bright transparency of Pinot Noir and a bit more acidity and earthiness than ripe fruit character. It’s a well made, well balanced wine, the one I serve to friends if I want to fit a broad range of palates or dishes. It’s also my backup bottle at a BYO restaurant if I’m bringing other, unknown bottles. The Terre Nere Rosso is a wine of near-certain appeal.

Mr. de Grazia makes more expensive and complex, single-vineyard wines too; when I told him his basic red is my house pour, he didn’t seem surprised. In fact, he grew up with a house wine. In Florence, a city “surrounded by vineyards,” a house wine was one made by “friends or relatives who had a little farm nearby, where you and all the friends and relatives and neighbors helped in the harvest.” Mr. de Grazia fashioned his Etna Rosso, my house wine, in memory of those early days and wines that were “graceful and tasty” as well as affordable.

I may not live in a city surrounded by vineyards, but I do live in a town surrounded by wine shops, where I too can find wines that are graceful, tasty, affordable. When I describe one as my “house wine” it’s a description of honor, not shame.

By Lettie Teague
October 17, 2018

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