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Is it ever right to order the house wine?

Was wondering if it is ever desirable to order the house wine rather than a bottle. I will be traveling with my wife and just college graduated daughter to Paris and was curious to know if the collected wisdom of this board ever buys a carafe.

I am coming from California and belong to a few wineries in the Paso Robles area where they make "Rhone style" GSMs. My wife in summer loves a nice French rose´. My daughter like her petit syrah, but I don't think that is grape that is commonly grown in France (could be wrong about that) Thanks for any help or advice.

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  1. In Lyon, we often order the house "pot du vin" and have never been disappointed. I don't keep tabs on the locals, but it seems to me that they do this too.

    1. Petite sirah (durif) is originally a French variety, a crosspollination of syrah and peloursin. But it is not widely grown anymore in France.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Ptipois

        I know that here in California we are lucky to have access to varietals such as Zinfandels and Petit Syrah. I am looking forward to enjoying french wines that are harder to find here at home.

        1. re: steveburstein

          I almost couldn't believe my eyes when I belatedly saw your citing Petite Sirah as meritous. I wrote this grape off in the 80's as good for blending (then with Zinfandel) but too coarse to be the title act.
          But I see that my friends in Calif are right. They conquered this beast and are making outstanding Petite Sirahs today.

          1. re: collioure

            As you French have told us for years, it's not the grape but the terroir and the winemaker that define the wine, ergo so many faces of chardoney in France.

            1. re: mangeur

              But I'm not French. I'm an American living in France.

              But, yes, dialing in terroir makes wine very interesting, the reason I love Sancerre rouge a wine many sneer at. Santenay too.

              Nevertheless I'm not going to demand that France increase production of Durif.

            2. re: collioure

              Not just Petit Sirah but also Petit Verdot and the occasional Tannat. I should pack some up to trade for a personal guide to all things Paris. Perhaps some Zinfandels as well.

              1. re: steveburstein

                We have Tannat here in France. It's the principal grape in Madiran and in Irouléguy rouge. Also blended into Cahors.

        2. Why not order whatever you're comfortable ordering?

          I imagine if there's a "house wine," then the people running the restaurant figure it's okay for a customer to order it.

          4 Replies
          1. re: mitchleeny

            When it comes to having wine with a meal I am never uncomfortable. I found that when we traveled to Rome the house wines were much better than if you try the same thing here in the States.

            1. re: steveburstein

              Agree - both in Italy and France, the house wine is infinitely better than in the US. To me, it doesn't make sense, to me, not to order the house wine. Unless it is some very special meal that needs a pairing.

              1. re: rudeboy

                My experience in Italy is entirely in line with what rude boy says. Not only is the house wine better, and way cheaper, but it has been vetted by the house and is certainly a good match with the cuisine. The times I ordered "famous labels" in Italy were not the most delicious experiences.

              2. re: steveburstein

                Well, if Rome is your basis of comparison, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised in Paris/ France.

            2. Sure, more & more places now, since the Loi Evin, have wine by the glass, 25 cl, 46 (pot) or 50 cl, etc; 2 places I know even pour from a magnum.
              And some of us stoop so low as to have box wine at home (it's higher end stuff than in the US).

              4 Replies
              1. re: John Talbott

                doing my research I am not surprised to hear that. There is nothing like having some nice wine to enhance a meal. I was just curious to know if the house wines are usually of a good quality or if it was better to go with a bottle with the meal.

                1. re: steveburstein

                  In my experience house wines are drinkable and rarely anything more. Unless a restaurant is known for a house wine they procure from a good local producer (e.g. the Chateauneuf-du-Pape at Hiely in Avignon), you will get better wine by ordering a bottle.

                2. re: John Talbott

                  Actually I've drunk decent box wine in CT, MA and NY. Not so much otherwise.

                  1. re: John Talbott

                    I've had perfectly good box wines in France and in Italy. And even in the Netherlands. Obviously it isn't Dutch wine - either from more southerly European countries or South Africa - the Netherlands seems to have maintained a lot of trade ties with Zuid Afrika.

                  2. I'm surprised by some of the comments. My mentor taught me, and therefore all my reports, that a "house wine" was a point of pride, not "slop of the day." Are most of you all telling us that Paris restaurants will serve "slop of the day" if we ask for vin de maison?

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: hychka

                      absolutely not -- some are better than others, but I've never had a bad glass of house wine anywhere in France -- always at least drinkable.

                      As opposed to the US custom of offering the cheapest plonk available as the "house wine", French restaurateurs tend to offer something that will pair well with most of their menu. It's not uncommon for them to buy from a winemaker friend in one of the winemaking regions.

                      Unless we're just in the mood for a particular wine, or the special of the day is particularly tempting, we almost always order the house.

                      1. re: sunshine842

                        "As opposed to the US custom of offering the cheapest plonk available as the "house wine", French restaurateurs tend to offer something that will pair well with most of their menu."
                        One lunch long ago I ordered the least expensive wine at the Elysee Vernet and joked to the sommelier that I had made a discovery: quite seriously he said "I take pride in all the wines on the list and you have indeed discovered one of my favorites."

                        1. re: John Talbott

                          some are better than others, but we've had quite a few that were just plain very nice wine.

                          If you ask, they'll almost always tell you the name of the producer....it's fun to set off the next day to see if you can find them.

                          1. re: John Talbott

                            LOL This must be a line they are taught in som school since I, too, always seem to pick their favorites!

                        2. re: hychka

                          not I! I find most house wines just fine. And in Avignon, it seems everyone pours young Mont Redon CduP. :)

                          1. re: hychka

                            Paris may be the exception to the rule.........there ARE places that will slough off the slop..others who still take pride. Anywhere else, you can be assured of getting something admirable

                          2. I often drink wine by the glass or carafe in France but I don't think that's the same as "house wine".

                            To me a house wine in most countries is a fairly anonymous low cost, low quality wine. It's for those that know no better. But in most French restaurants they will have a selection of named wines by the glass, carafe etc. and these are perfectly decent, perfectly drinkable wines.

                            Obviously to navigate these wines you need to have the same knowledge as you do if you are choosing by the bottle. These wines probably won't be famed labels or well known brands so you need to understand which varietals go into the wines of certain regions.

                            And I think that is the real key to drinking decent wine in France. These days many of us are used to ordering wine by the grape - a cab sav, or a Pinot. But in France they will be listed by region not by grape. If you don't understand that it's makes it complex and unrewarding. So yes GSM's from the Rhone, but also lots of Shiraz so you need to know the appellations.

                            The same is true about Rosé the styles vary across the regions so a good Tavel will be quite different from a Cote de Provence or one from Languedoc or even a Rosé d'Anjou.

                            So bottom line is that it's fine to drink the named "house wines" but don't do it blind. Work out what you like and what it's called in France and understand the quality designations like Premier and Grand Cru.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: PhilD

                              Very often, a menu will actually tell you what the 'vin maison' is -- and even more often, the staff will tell you if you ask.

                              Cotes du Rhone are frequent house wines for the same reason they're usually my house wine -- most people like them, and they're very food-friendly.

                              1. re: PhilD

                                Thanks PhilD. I now know I have some research to do before we arrive. What you write makes perfect sense and look forward to figuring out what wines Imwant to drink and enjoy.

                              2. Any chance your question was spurred by the article in this month's Food & Wine in which Olivier Magny said that if you order a house wine in Paris you are "200 busted as an American." ??? Just curious. :-)

                                Regardless, it's an interesting topic so thanks for starting the discussion. I don't buy Magny's statement - but as an American who has ordered "house wine" in Paris, I guess I could be wrong.

                                I agree with a lot of the other posts - I don't think a good restaurant is going to serve you swill. The corner cafe on the other hand....

                                Btw, I was just in your lovely neck of the woods for the first time a couple months ago. Yes, you are lucky!

                                30 Replies
                                1. re: VaPaula

                                  Olivier Magny has a personal interest in "upselling", as the chairman of a fine wines society. That statement is ridiculous - French people tend to be thrifty, and not all are wine connoisseurs in the same sense that Magny is.

                                  I note that his article is about inexpensive wines. Here is the precise quote:

                                  Q. What's the biggest mistake US wine lovers make in France?
                                  A. Falling for what I call the "house wine myth." It's this idea that you come to France and order the house wine and it's amazing, the best thing you've ever had. OK: We don't even have a phrase for "house wine" in French. If you go to Paris and ask for the house wine, you're 200 percent busted as an American, and they're going to serve you some random bottle they bought for one euro.

                                  1. re: lagatta

                                    When I was there as an American tourist (I think I was in Arles), I saw people going to a local vintner(?) with plastic containers, and filling them up for home consumption. So, I procured a plastic container and brought that wine back to my hotel room. It was great. Is this common in France?

                                    1. re: rudeboy

                                      Yes. My brother who does not live in France was in fact looking forward to tasting what he calls moonshine when he came to holiday with his sister who does. And it was not disappointment.

                                      1. re: rudeboy

                                        "Is this common in France?"
                                        Unfortunately less and less.
                                        60 years ago your average local wine shop had several barrels; recently I saw someone toting a container from my local Nicolas and asked "Where did that come from?" "The back," the owner said, and showed me.
                                        Funny.

                                        1. re: rudeboy

                                          rude - yes I loved seeing the shop keeper weighing the empty container for the tare, filling it and charging by the cl or such. not bad stuff at all. would I talk it up to friends or try to bring home? nah, but usually really good for a table or house wine.

                                        2. re: lagatta

                                          I was going to post simply "Olivier Magny says a lot of crap", but you developed the idea for me. He also has a reputation for selling overpriced wines, so it sort of figures that he bashes house wines.
                                          A few points: there IS a phrase for "house wine" in France, even more than one: vin maison, vin de la maison, cuvée de la maison, vin du patron, cuvée du patron, or even no phrase: usually the wines served en carafe or en pichet are vins de la maison.
                                          There's no possible way that you'd be busted as an American if you order house wines. Locals order them all the time.
                                          On the other hand house wine is good at best, mediocre at worst, and very seldom exceptional. Indeed, don't ever think you'll order house wine and say "wow". The best you can say is "il est pas mal" or, better, "il se laisse boire".

                                          1. re: Ptipois

                                            Ptipois, in both my posts mentioning Magny, I was trying to figure out a more "polite" and useful ways of saying exactly that. I glanced at his recent blogposts and some were rather nasty.

                                            And "busted as an American" is an odd comment, non? Nowadays most Parisians don't think of all Americans as boors... and those who do are ignorant.

                                            1. re: lagatta

                                              Yes, it is indeed an odd comment. And pretty rude of Magny. But that sort of remark is not unusual from him.

                                              1. re: Ptipois

                                                That is very sad. I have not seen him in many years, but I met him quite some time ago, when he was just getting started. Back then he was not at all crude or rude, and seemed to be quite knowledgeable for one so young.

                                                I can't imagine why he would think that type of attitude would bring him more business.

                                              2. re: lagatta

                                                As a matter of fact, nowadays most Parisians want to be Americans...only kidding!

                                              3. re: Ptipois

                                                I find it so insidiously nasty for Olivier Magny to poopoo house wine citing the reason that one would be busted as an American, as though American = child molester. It busts Olivier Magny as a clumsy marketer of overpriced wines.

                                                1. re: Ptipois

                                                  if you look around any eating establishment, you'll see a handful of bottles, but you'll see a LOT of pichets....that's house wine.

                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                    That's what I noticed - lots of pichets, typically at most tables, but not all.

                                                2. re: lagatta

                                                  Olivier is right. The French don't call it "house wine." Ask for a carafe of wine. Then you will get that Cote du Rhone or Beaujolais they are pouring. And, unless it's a special meal, or you have a particular reason for wanting a certain wine with that dinner, it will be tasty and go with your food just fine.

                                                  1. re: ChefJune

                                                    Of course they have a name for it, though not necessarily printed or said out loud. Even when it is not mentioned, everybody understands that the generic wine served in pichets/carafes is "vin maison", "cuvée maison" or "cuvée du patron". That's what you order when you order a carafe.

                                                    Generally there's more than one (minimally there's white, rosé and red), and some bistrots à vins or larger bistrots will have a larger choice of vins maison (with the origins mentioned).

                                                    1. re: Ptipois

                                                      This. The list of stuff sold by the split, 50cl, liter or whatever are the house wines. Usually, there's a few to chose from.

                                                      But at the Cafe de Colombie on the concourse at the Gare de Lyon at 7AM, you just ask for red wine.

                                                      Oh wait, there's a 50cl now....

                                                       
                                                      1. re: Busk

                                                        It could well be a pot lyonnais, traditionally 46cl: http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pot_lyon... I spent a month in Lyon, doing university research and consuming my fair share of those...

                                                        Actually, I got up early and worked hard, but had fun as well.

                                                        1. re: lagatta

                                                          Yes, as stated upthread, we drank our share of pots in Lyon -- invariably cotes du Rhone.

                                                          1. re: masha

                                                            Indeed, that's some kind a CdR in the photo if memory serves, at Le Bistro du Peintre.

                                                      2. re: Ptipois

                                                        I seem to remember just ordering 'un verre de rouge (or blanc)' and let them pour whatever was open. like I said not grounds for a postcard, but never a complaint. plonk in many countries is usually quite different than plonk in the US.

                                                        amazing how fast a language slips away if not used...

                                                    2. re: lagatta

                                                      I have no idea who Magny is but I don't think everything he says is wrong in this quote.

                                                      House wine isn't usually "amazing", in fact it would be amazing if it was. And I think he is right that many tourists eulogise about the quality of house wines in France, or even the wines from barrels sold in 5 lite plastic bottles. These are cheaper wines, they may be drinkable but they are not fantastic.

                                                      Not that many years ago the French wine industry was in real trouble. A fewer famed regions did OK, but the mass production areas were reality struggling against competition from the new world (taking over the traditional export markets). Now areas like Languedoc are recovering as they focus on quality and introduce a lot of the new world production values so there is now a lot of better quality wine at the mid-range, but given the volume of production, there is still a lot of crap at the bottom (sorry - much put into cardboard boxes).

                                                      I also agree most places in France don't really have the concept of house wine like they do in the US/UK - in these countries they are typically anonymous wines, cheap industrial wines that have been open too long and are oxidised. So not worth drinking.

                                                      But there are lots of wines by the glass or carafe in the "wines of the house" section (a subtle but important difference). These are named wines, usually well chosen wines from the local area and are selected to be both cheap and go with their foods. And so they are good choices if looking for just a few glasses. That said it's often better to choose a good bottle unless you are in a restaurant that doubles as a wine bar.

                                                      So maybe if you do simply ask for "a glass of house wine" in Paris you do label yourself as a tourist. Someone in the know is going to ask for a glass of wine by its name and choose a style to suit there taste and the food rather than asking for just a glass of red.

                                                    3. re: VaPaula

                                                      I have not seen the article in Food and Wine but intend to seek it out. As for being busted as an American that will not be a problem as my severe lack of speaking French will be the biggest giveaway (I am learning all the polite phrases, of course but being taken for a local will never happen.)

                                                      What spurred me to ask the question was John Talbot's lovely informative blog. I love his reviews, but it always seems he is ordering one bottle or another. It just got me thinking and doing a search on the topic I saw that this was basically not covered.

                                                      While not a wine expert by any stretch of the imagination, I do know the difference between a bordeaux and a beaujolais, but I must say a french wine label confuses me more than i care to admit.

                                                      1. re: steveburstein

                                                        Wine by the bottle is always a better deal than wine by the glass. Whatever we can't finish, we lug it home.
                                                        The "baggie dog" is totally accepted in the mores here … for wine. In fact it is encouraged by restaurants, in order to fight drunk driving.

                                                        1. re: Parigi

                                                          "Wine by the bottle is always a better deal than wine by the glass."
                                                          Not only that but one is never sure how long a bottle they pour "glasses" out of was opened.
                                                          I do like Parigi, schlep it home.

                                                          1. re: John Talbott

                                                            I now have this vision of tourists stacking up their hotel rooms with lots of half empty bottles. Sensible to take it home if you live in Paris but what do you do with the leftovers if you don't...?

                                                            1. re: PhilD

                                                              With my crowd I doubt any bot will go in the doggie bag. HA!

                                                              1. re: PhilD

                                                                Then get a glass. I was just explaining why John prefers ordering by the bottle. I am not crusading the bottle as the universal ordering.

                                                                1. re: PhilD

                                                                  Mine has never lasted longer than possibly a glass when I get back to the hotel room ...

                                                              2. re: Parigi

                                                                Original poster here. I can honestly say there is no chance that first bottle would have anything left to take back to the hotel.
                                                                Can't say the same if there is a second bottle. :-)

                                                              3. re: steveburstein

                                                                I agree that John's blog is lovely indeed, and not only because it is informative, but also its entire tone. (I find Magny is becoming almost a caricature of a sardonic Parigot - there is an undercurrent in his writing of which I'm not exactly fond).

                                                                Even if one does speak fluent French, one's accent will always mark one as a "non-local" - even if one is from another region not far away at all. Paris is very cosmopolitan, and most Parisians, even French ones, are from "away".

                                                            2. Most of the folks I know (including me) often choose the house wine in restaurants in France. They are almost always delicious, as well as a great value.

                                                              24 Replies
                                                              1. re: ChefJune

                                                                I much prefer wine in bottles, but then again I confess ot being a wine snob.
                                                                Tonight we're having Ch d'Orschwihr Gewurztraminer 2011 Bollenberg. That will never be a house wine.

                                                                1. re: collioure

                                                                  Nor should it be.

                                                                  I love it when I can have such a wine, but it is a rare treat. Usually my trips to France have been to conferences or doing graduate research, so budget is limited.

                                                                  1. re: lagatta

                                                                    But It's only €10.80 a bottle in France so hardly expensive...?

                                                                    1. re: PhilD

                                                                      Then it could perfectly be a house wine should a bistro owner choose to make it so...

                                                                      1. re: Ptipois

                                                                        Introducing a parallel to this discussion, DH and I have in the past few years drifted away from a common palate, making choosing single bottles less successful. We address this by having our waiter or wine person hear our individual preferences and choose a glass to accompany each course.

                                                                        Letting go of control has allowed each of us to be introduced to many wines we might never have thought to order. This has worked brilliantly for us but would be problematic for those who need to single out the perfect bottle from a list.

                                                                        Parenthetically, we have been gobsmacked by the absurdly low price per glass we are most often charged.

                                                                        1. re: mangeur

                                                                          I am also curious as to where everyone's favorite place to get "vin maison" is?

                                                                          1. re: steveburstein

                                                                            you don't go and buy "vin maison" -- and it isn't any one kind.

                                                                            Every establishment has their own offering.

                                                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                                                              No. I understand that. I was just wondering if there is a restaurant that has good food and an excellent vin maison. One that was particularly remarkable.

                                                                              1. re: steveburstein

                                                                                the wines and the dishes typically change by season.

                                                                                1. re: steveburstein

                                                                                  In Paris, Le Bougainville comes to mind as having a nice array of vins maison.

                                                                                  1. re: Ptipois

                                                                                    I like and have drunk too many and much of the house wines at Le Rubis.
                                                                                    When I went to Point du Grouin they only served house wines and out of boxes. It's fine.

                                                                                    1. re: vielleanglaise

                                                                                      Just checked out the Yelp reviews on Le Rubis and have added to my long list of possibilities. Thank you for the recommendation.

                                                                                        1. re: steveburstein

                                                                                          Le Rubis is a wine bar so you would be surprised if their wines by the glass were not good. That said the better stuff is by the bottle.

                                                                                          It only does lunch though, with cheese and charcuterie plates in the evening when it's more if an after work drinking bar.

                                                                                      1. re: Ptipois

                                                                                        Also considering Le Baron Rouge as a possibility.

                                                                                        1. re: steveburstein

                                                                                          Baron Rouge is sort of OK. It's great fun for a Sunday lunch when there is a buzz, but surprisingly not that great for wine, despite it being a wine far...!

                                                                                          I thought the wine from the barrels was pretty rank, but met the needs of the crowds chugging it back. However they do have very well priced bottles so best to head towards the top of their list and select a decent bottle to go with the plates of cheese etc (and their cheese was very good).

                                                                                2. re: mangeur

                                                                                  "Letting go of control has allowed each of us to be introduced to many wines we might never have thought to order. This has worked brilliantly for us but would be problematic for those who need to single out the perfect bottle from a list."

                                                                                  Often, only thing that can surpass the imagined is the unexpected.

                                                                          2. re: collioure

                                                                            I will add that I select restaurants very carefully. So dinner is invariably good and demands a good bottle of wine.

                                                                            Were I traveling on a budget and dining in a brasserie, especially eating alone, I very well might ask about the house wines. Usually they will give you a taste.

                                                                            1. re: collioure

                                                                              "I will add that I select restaurants very carefully."

                                                                              That's good to know; nobody does that here.

                                                                              1. re: Ptipois

                                                                                Mais quelle langue de vipère ! ;)

                                                                                1. re: Rio Yeti

                                                                                  Oh, I don't mind, exept that the context of that remark was not included.

                                                                                  If Pipois knew the lengths I go to, esp in remote places where dependable restaurant info is limited, he might withdraw that remark. Budapest and esp rural Czech Rrepublic were a real challenge last fall. Moreover, navigating the wine lists in those parts was no bowl of cherries either. After a hard day of travel, it is important to me to sit down to a good dinner.

                                                                                  BTW a while back on this blog I exposed my own langue de vipère with respect to visiting the city of Bordeaux. And I would do it again !!!

                                                                                  1. re: collioure

                                                                                    Your langue de vipère was the best promotion of Bordeaux. Made everyone want to go.
                                                                                    Your promise of more langue de vipère on Bordeaux is the best news for its Office du tourisme.

                                                                                    1. re: Parigi

                                                                                      Hey, be my guest.
                                                                                      Just I won't be there to greet you.
                                                                                      "Bordeaux must mean boredom in some ancient language." - Rick Steves

                                                                                    2. re: collioure

                                                                                      Don't get me wrong, I enjoy reading a good langue de vipère comment as much as the next guy... and my tongue has been known to be split in the middle occasionally as well ! ;)

                                                                          3. besides it's Paris, who gives a crap if you're deemed a tourist as long as you're polite and remember "S'il vous Plait"

                                                                            they probably have you sized up the minute you walk in the door and just confirmed when the high school fractured French starts. don't let some internet twit tell you how to behave like a local, only the 'boors' consider France to be homogenous in any way. (although I was quite flattered once when a tiny octogenarian tottering on impressive spiked heels mistakenly asked me - ME! for directions in the Marais).

                                                                            point: Paris hosts a lot of tourists so you won't be alone and lots of locals seem to consume the everyday stuff, but perhaps not on a special occasion.

                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                            1. re: hill food

                                                                              I was treated very well as a tourist in Paris, and in France, and experienced none of the typical things that we hear regarding the French. I'm half (cajun) French, so maybe it was a DNA thing. I think that my high school fractured French only helped me communicate.

                                                                              One of the best days in my life was a Wednesday in Paris. I had no clue, but signs appeared stating C'est Arrive!

                                                                              1. re: rudeboy

                                                                                yup, I'm maybe 1/8 Huguenot and even though je ne parle Francais, just being nice always works fine.

                                                                                1. re: hill food

                                                                                  The fact that Olivier Magny says that being "busted as an American" should be a concern only shows his own contempt for the very target clientele of his overpricing - hence the overpricing - and is not representatave of how the French, Parisians included, think of Americans.

                                                                            2. I loved the house wines of Italy. I'll be in France someday. Seems like most of the Italians had the house wine. Is it same for the French ?

                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                              1. re: emglow101

                                                                                "Seems like most of the Italians had the house wine. Is it same for the "
                                                                                Some French have the house wine. Some have a non-house wine. And others even have water. I thought Italy seemed like that to me mais bon…

                                                                                1. re: Parigi

                                                                                  "Some French have the house wine. Some have a non-house wine. And others even have water"

                                                                                  I have heard about this water you speak of. Some say it it quite refreshing. Also here in the States ads that imply that Cidre is popular. Bu that is made by the neighbors in Belgium.

                                                                                  1. re: steveburstein

                                                                                    the northern tier of France produces significant quantities of outstanding cidres, and consumes a significant portion of it -- more than wine.

                                                                                    Normandy and Bretagne are significant apple producers, and it would be a crying shame to eschew the local bubbly (cidre is at least lightly sparkling) for wine made in another region -- particularly when enjoying the lovely cuisine of these regions (seriously -- what's not to like about large quantities of pork, beef, apples, butter, and cream...not to mention moules....)

                                                                              2. Informative post. I wonder if the answers change when visiting a wine region? If you are at a place like Ma Cuisine in beaune, the discussion focuses in their stash of bottles, but should they not also have excellent access to local producers, and therefore a "house" wine?

                                                                                Also surprised to not see mention of Chez Denise (relating to Paris), as my understanding is that they have only house wines (2 if I remember correctly).

                                                                                7 Replies
                                                                                1. re: non sequitur

                                                                                  "should they not also have excellent access to local producers, and therefore a "house" wine?"
                                                                                  Yes they should.

                                                                                  1. re: Parigi

                                                                                    In Italy, it is different. In the two largest tourist cities, trattorie and osterie, and some ristorante, have a different approach from serving, let’s say, CDR as a house wine.

                                                                                    In many, if not the majority of these places, which attract many foreign tourists, the house wine is usually a unique blend. That is, if the tourist orders a meal (and particularly if they order only one dish, but want lots of bread) and orders the house wine, that blend is, many times, the leftovers from many other bottles. Most foreigners can’t tell the difference and in fact they praise "the really good house wine."

                                                                                      1. re: allende

                                                                                        I wouldn't be surprised to understand that was the SOP in any tourist restaurant.

                                                                                        In my youth friends alleged pubs recycled all the beer from the drip trays into the best bitter barrel.

                                                                                    1. re: non sequitur

                                                                                      If we were to establish a list of all the Paris restaurants or bistrots with decent house wines, we'd still be at it in the Fall.

                                                                                      1. re: non sequitur

                                                                                        "I wonder if the answers change when visiting a wine region?"

                                                                                        Oddly, I am not certain it does. I agree that it should, but if you think about it few areas of France are too far from a wine region, and it's a country that's quite wine focused, thus the quality across the country I'd good.

                                                                                        I actually think it depends more on the restaurant quality and the clientele they are pitching to - see my comment on Baron Rouge. So a better place will generally have better wine than a bar serving less discriminating drinkers.

                                                                                        The secret is not to expect quality to be cheap just because it's in France, and maybe that's the focus of the Magny article. I think there is a belief that because it's France it's going to be fantastic wine at bargain prices.

                                                                                        Unfortunately It's completely false, good wine cost more than bad wine. So even if it's sold by the glass or carafe it's risky selecting the cheapest - better to head up the list a little (and the second cheapest is usually the worst value).

                                                                                        1. re: non sequitur

                                                                                          Chez Denise has one house wine, their own vineyards Brouilly. These also sell a lot of the blanc Cadillac, a friend's vineyard and if asked they have a large rarely ordered wine list.

                                                                                        2. Has anyone considered the situation factor? A house wine can be divine when consumed in a convivial setting among jovial friends or a lover. And a premier cru can taste like vinegar when one's mind is closed. Perhaps we should consider the ambiance before choosing either?

                                                                                          1. I suppose an easy way to answer would be just to ask the opposite -- is it ever *wrong* to order the house wine in France?

                                                                                            And the answer would be a resounding no.

                                                                                            8 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                              It has to be a rhetorical question if only because "house wine" is such a huge umbrella, everything from labeled bottles chosen by the house, house labeled bottles, the 50cl pot filled from a 75cl bottle (as at Machon d'Henri), the carafe from from bottle, box or cask.

                                                                                              1. re: mangeur

                                                                                                also true -- but none of it will be bad, and you'll be in good company with plenty of other diners also drinking the house tipple.

                                                                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                  Umm, from time to time you do stumble upon the odd pipe-cleaner.
                                                                                                  Serving plonk in carafes is not so common as some people think, but it is also a French tradition.

                                                                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                    No, no, no that is such a wrong thing to say. There is lots of absolutely awful "house wine" or wine by the glass. France is a really great place to drink the house wine but you still need to have your wits about you and choose carefully.

                                                                                                    This is what the Magny article up thread is really saying when he talks about the "House Wine Myth" there is a romanticism about the overall quality of all French wine that isn't justified. There is lots and lots of really bad to average wine still produced across France and it's important to select carefully. Just because it's French wine doesn't automatically make it good wine.

                                                                                                    1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                      then we must have extraordinary luck...because in all of the years, and all of the glasses of house wine we've consumed in France (which would add up to a pretty significant sample...) , we've never had a single glass of "absolutely awful".

                                                                                                      Some is definitely better than others, and some is definitely "meh" -- but it's always been drinkable.

                                                                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                        Or, to be candid, probably different tastes and expectations from wine.

                                                                                                        I think it's sometimes based on experience and environment. Lots of my British friends drink and enjoy wines I feel are very ordinary or bad - and I mean bad as in faulty like TCA (cork taint), oxidised or heat damaged. On the other hand my Australian friends are much more critical and discerning.

                                                                                                        I put it down to Australia's strong wine industry with lots of reasonably priced wine in restaurants versus the British passion for cheap supermarket wine (£2.99 was the standard price point with £4.99 for special occasions). I put France between the two, lots of price driven plonk in supermarkets and high street bottle shops but balanced by restaurants and bars serving lots of decent wine by the glass or pichet. However, there are still the vestiges of the really bad industrial wines around i.e. a lot of the really cheap right bank Bordeaux

                                                                                                        1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                          but let's also be really honest --

                                                                                                          I would never, ever order house wine and expect it to be some ethereal, life-altering experience.

                                                                                                          It's all about managing expectations on the front end.

                                                                                                        2. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                          Yes you have been lucky then... I've had my fair share of "piquettes"...

                                                                                                2. One thing is sort of weird here - I don't remember ever being offered a "house wine" in the US, except in a French restaurant by the carafe. Usually you are given a list of wines available by the glass, wines available by the half and full bottles. Are other people in the US seeing "house wine"?

                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                                                                                    What prompted me to ask the question is exactly what you allude to. I know enough about California wines to know that even when you go to a nice or fine dining establishment the wines by the glass are usually "plonk" (I learned that word on this board. I was just interested in what the wise ones here had to say on the topic. I have learned quite a bit.

                                                                                                    1. re: steveburstein

                                                                                                      Really interesting. I'm surprised to read this. From your profile I'm guessing you live in CA. I lived most of my life (so far) in DC, and now live in Chapel Hill, NC (not a major city by any means), and I travel a fair amount. But at even the mid-range places here (and certainly the high end) you have a choice of what you want, and are given all the info that you would need (who made the wine, what grape it is, what year), and usually at these high end places the choices are very good. I've never had anyone turn me down when i asked for a taste (because of what was mentioned upboard - that some bottles may have been open too long), and in fact in NYC a month ago I was brought 3 different tastes (fairly large ones!) and the waiter insisted that I finish them all. Is it maybe that you just aren't as clear on French wines (which would be totally understandable)?

                                                                                                  2. You won't find either of those in France.especially a rose..but the house wine I have had in over a 100+ places has always been respectable.....and a heck of a lot better than many US bottles

                                                                                                    17 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                                                                      FriedClamFanatic - sorry to clarify - are you saying you can't get French Rosé, GSM and Petit Syrah?

                                                                                                      Tavel is famed French Rose, Chateauneuf-du-Pape is a classic GSM both easily found. Its true Petit Syrah (or Durif) is no longer grown in France so that won't be available - but maybe a big Vaqueyras or Gigondas would fill the gap.

                                                                                                      1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                        Yes....there are a few........but not easy to find or are 'renamed" so the Rose' is word is understated. And I have found that to anyone who has been brought with American style Rose' these alternatives are much different

                                                                                                        1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                                                                          That French rosés are different is definitely the truth. Are you saying that you are looking for an American style rosé?

                                                                                                          If so, I would recommend asking for the aperitif rosé at Vesuvio Italian restaurant on rue Gozlin. It definitely reminds me of the rosés of my youth.

                                                                                                          1. re: mangeur

                                                                                                            On my last trip to the USA, I was amazed by the sudden popularity of rosé... and by the very large selection of French rosés on display. Now I know why the prices of Bandol rosé (my favourite summer wine) have gone way up at my local caviste in Paris.

                                                                                                            1. re: Parnassien

                                                                                                              yes, rose has taken off in the US, but buyers and producers still have quite gotten their heads round the concept that rose isn't supposed to taste like Kool-Aid.

                                                                                                              If you *do* find a French-style rose, it will be jaw-dropping expensive, for stuff you wouldn't serve to your most bitter enemy in France.

                                                                                                              I weep for the cases of dry roses stacked in the aisles of French supermarkets.

                                                                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                <If you *do* find a French-style rose, it will be jaw-dropping expensive, for stuff you wouldn't serve to your most bitter enemy in France.>

                                                                                                                huh? plenty of relatively affordable French Rosé on offer in US wine stores and not terrible stuff. As well, there are quite a few lovely US Rosés being made these days -- and I am not talking about white Zinfandel.

                                                                                                          2. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                                                                            Mmmmh - aren't the US GSM's modelled on the French ones as its a classic blend. CnDP, Vaqueyras, and Gigondas are prime French examples and are going to be on just about any wine list in any part of France.

                                                                                                            The revitalised Languedoc is also using a lot of Grenache blended with Shiraz and Mourvèdre especially the to the east where a lot of Grenache is planted, so that gives another source of well priced GSM wines. Again Grenache based wines from the Languedoc are going to be on every list.

                                                                                                            I agree French Rosé will be different to a lot of the new world fruit bombs, but France has a long tradition of making and drinking Rosé. Its a wine well suited to drinking in the summer, as you relax by the beach or in the garden. Tavel is the famed Rosé from the Rhone Valley. Then provence is a region where 60% of the wine production is Rosé. In the Loire Rosé d'Anjou is equally famed but that said just about every region has a Rosé including Champagne. Sit on a bar terrace in Paris on a sunny day and lots of people will be enjoying a glass of Rosé, it may be fashionable, but in France its never gone out of fashion.

                                                                                                            So no you won't duplicate the tastes of US wines in France (although the holy grail of US wine making seems to be to imitate left bank Bordeaux's) but you will be able to try lots of wines from the same families. Every list is going to have GSM's and Rosé's - you jest need a little research to understand which grapes go into which wines as they are not labelled by varietal. And i especially recommend the really pale, light Rosé from Provence which is very subtle rather than an assault on the tastebuds.

                                                                                                            1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                              The light rose´s from Provence are the ones my wife loves and we search them out here in Los Angeles. They are very easy to find. As a matter of fact Wine Spectator named Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's rose´ from Provence the best of the year. it is Chateau Miraval Rosé 2012. Goes for about 18 dollars here.

                                                                                                              Sorry to tell sunshine that they are completely wrong about the type of Rose´ that we Americans like to drink. Out here where the weather is almost always sunny we enjoy the pink all year round.

                                                                                                              1. re: steveburstein

                                                                                                                that's not THEY, that's ME. Since returning from several years living in France, the overwhelming majority of US produced pink wines are white zin or a moscato. Blergh on both accounts.
                                                                                                                Even though I still carry some affection for white zin simply because it was my gateway into drinking wine, I won't drink it any more, and despise American-style roses -- Kool-Aid with an alcohol content.

                                                                                                                Give me a clean, crisp Tavel any time -- but, alas, the cost of a single bottle in the US is more than the cost of an entire case from the vineyard in France.

                                                                                                                I will also freely admit to having been spoilt rotten by summers in France -- lovely, crisp roses available for a song, and several bottles in the fridge at all times for impromptu picnics or dinners in the garden with friends.

                                                                                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                  Sunshine, while no one can argue with your assessment of low-end US pink wines, I don't locally have the same problem finding decent domestic ones, and certainly don't pay outrageous prices for French stuff. Vis a vis, excellent Chateau de Trinquevedal sells for between $10 and $15 on the west coast. Is the Florida market that different?

                                                                                                                  1. re: mangeur

                                                                                                                    Yep. I don't live near a decent wine shop (there are some, but it's saturday. -only slogging, and the only stuff at Publix (because Wal-Mart and Winn-dixie are the only other options, and I use the term loosely) offer nothing other than sweet pink rubbish.

                                                                                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                      I wonder where in US you live, sunshine842. Lots of lovely rosés on offer around here (the East Coast).

                                                                                                                      1. re: ChefJune

                                                                                                                        As above -- I'm not within easy reach of wine other that found at Publix.

                                                                                                        2. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                                                                          Rosés get slammed a lot here and 90% for good reason; those of us in our dotage had Mateus as students and then had Eastern European stuff and only recently discovered good French ones - that's speaking for myself (my wife hates all rosés because they remind her of our Bohemian student life in Washington Heights/Inwood).
                                                                                                          Now on a hot day at a place like Le Saut du Loup or Monsieur Bleu, I'm just fine with one.

                                                                                                          1. re: John Talbott

                                                                                                            I am actually partial to a drop of Mateus (maybe its simple nostalgia) its not as really bad as its made out to be....that said there are many better.

                                                                                                            1. re: John Talbott

                                                                                                              For many of us Berringer White Zin was the gateway wine to get us started on the expensive hobby of loving wine. Being par of the generation after you John, I of course remember Mateus (that bottle looked like old Europe to me) and of course Boone's Farm.

                                                                                                              as for "(my wife hates all rosés because they remind her of our Bohemian student life in Washington Heights/Inwood)"
                                                                                                              for some that is exactly the opposite and why they love it.
                                                                                                              Cheers.

                                                                                                          2. hey dont stop at the house wine. especially in the countryside, and especially at lunch, some of the best meals i've ever had (or jealously seen others eating) have been a simple carte and a carafe ordered by a lucky local who was never ever brought a menu in the first place!

                                                                                                            1. The discussion of rose´s here is so serious I have to recall that Brussels declared that they could also be made by blending red and white wine.

                                                                                                              20 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: John Talbott

                                                                                                                Totally makes me want to pound a bottle of Sidi Brahim in front of Felix Potin...

                                                                                                                1. re: Busk

                                                                                                                  Félix Potin ? He eloped with Irma La Douce in the last century, dude. They are now operating a canabis ferme-auberge on Pantelleria, or their great grandchildren are.

                                                                                                                2. re: John Talbott

                                                                                                                  I think they always have been able to blend - after all Rosé Champagne has always been a blend.

                                                                                                                  1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                    Only for champagne in the case of rosé d'assemblage. Rosé de saignée is not a blend. The permission never applied to still rosés.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Ptipois

                                                                                                                      Under EU regulations you are able blend red and white PDI/PDO wines. Apparently the regulations only apply to the blending of non-PDI/PDO wines (subtle protectionism?). However, in France AOC/VdP rules will dictate if it actually happens.

                                                                                                                      That said there are quite a few methods of producing Rosé depending on the traditions of each region and style, and I suspect more blending happened than was admitted to. The added complexity is at what stage does the blend occur, I think many assume it is a blend of finished red and white wines. However, I believe in many wineries if blending is done it's earlier in the production cycle i.e. after fermentation but before maturation.

                                                                                                                      1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                        As I understand it Phil having visited many wineries in California the traditional method is that some skins are added to make rose´ while they are all eliminated for white wine. The skins adding those yummy/ chewy tanins that make red wine so wonderful.

                                                                                                                        1. re: steveburstein

                                                                                                                          Not really added. They either macerate the wine with the skins after the crushing for quite a short time (a couple of days at the most) then remove the skins rather leaving it to ferment with the skins as you would for red. Or they remove some juice from the macerating juice/skin mixture (which concentrates the remaining juice). This juice is then turned into Rosé, and the more concentrated juice and grape mixture is then destined to a more.

                                                                                                                  2. re: John Talbott

                                                                                                                    didn't that get rather soundly shouted down about this time last year?

                                                                                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                      Yah but I love bringing it up just to Épater la bourgeoisie; the sight of pouring red and white wine together - doesn't that make the heart beat faster?

                                                                                                                      1. re: John Talbott

                                                                                                                        it makes the heart do *something*.....but maybe I'm confusing that with the turning of my stomach...

                                                                                                                        1. re: John Talbott

                                                                                                                          Could be worse........they could add ginger ale or 7=up

                                                                                                                          1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                                                                                            Why would you do that to ginger ale or 7 Up? :>)

                                                                                                                            1. re: BlueOx

                                                                                                                              I see a lot of people ordering "rosé piscine", and "champagne piscine", with ice cubes floating in it.

                                                                                                                              1. re: vielleanglaise

                                                                                                                                I see a lot more of this as well - first saw it with South African friends but it is becoming more common.

                                                                                                                                1. re: vielleanglaise

                                                                                                                                  I like ice cubes in rosé. Dilutes it somewhat and goes one step towards making it more drinkable.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: vielleanglaise

                                                                                                                                    that's so sad...

                                                                                                                                    When I manage to find a decent rose, it has its own piscine -- I have one of those pitchers with the inner chamber that you fill with ice, or I float it in a bucket of ice.

                                                                                                                                    but no ice in my wine!

                                                                                                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                      I'm not an enemy of ice in wine when it's very hot. Not in a grand cru classé, evidently, but rosé actually benefits from it.

                                                                                                                                      In torrid weather, an ice cube in champagne works wonders, it triggers efferverscence, wakes the whole thing up and makes the wine a true energy drink.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Ptipois

                                                                                                                                        Americans are told there is no ice for drinks in Europe. Another myth exploded.

                                                                                                                          2. I don't know how many people saw the May 2014 Foodandwine as they spell it, where Olivier Magny, I know, I know, O Chateau gets a lot of flak here and elsewhere, talked about "French Wine for Anti-Snobs" in which he said that Yankees know wine "better than the French" but they "fall for the "house wine myth." Quoth he "We don't even have a word for "house wine". "If you go to Paris and ask for the house wine, you're 200 percent busted as an American, and they're going to serve you some random bottle they bought for one euro."
                                                                                                                            Don't kill me, I'm just the messenger.

                                                                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: John Talbott

                                                                                                                              VaPaula already mentioned it in his post of 6th May at the beginning of the discussion. I actually think Magny has a point, lots of people eulogise about fairly dodgy house wine in France, shire its better than wine "at home" but it nowhere near the best.

                                                                                                                              I also suspect that those who generally refer to "house wine" really mean unnamed wine rather than the better named choices that are available by the glass or pichet.

                                                                                                                              1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                I missed that. Oh, now I see it.
                                                                                                                                As Parigi would say sorriest.

                                                                                                                                1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                  What I meant as the original poster was wine serve in a caraft or pichet the 50cl size as opposed to ordering a bottle.
                                                                                                                                  I love the education that this thread has provided me, and appriciate all twist and turns it has taken. It has made me even more excited for my trip there in late June.
                                                                                                                                  Thank all who have responded and added to the discussion.