Several years ago I decided to undertake a wine cork project just as most craft inclined drinkers have. It was a wine cork wreath modeled after a cute one I saw at Screwtop Wine Bar in Arlington, VA. Thinking that I couldn’t drink enough wine to produce that many corks in time
for the holidays I enlisted my mom to save her corks too. When I got her rather impressive sized bag of corks I noticed that 75 percent of them were from the same bottles. When asked she casually explained that those were her “house wines.” Brilliant! Only my mother would know to appropriate such a term and make it so chic in her own home. Pick one red and one white that you really like, doesn’t have to be expensive, actually better that it’s not, that goes with most things and stock up. Then you will always have a bottle or two squirreled away that you can pull out for guests and not have to worry. Also over time people sort of naturally start to associate your home with that wine, good food, fun memories and being well taken care of. Like a good restaurant if the customers leave happy and full you are likely to have them back. Now for those of you who associate “house wine” with jammy yucky stuff poured out of a jug please know that I am referring to is akin to the lovely wine usually sold by the carafe in France or Italy. This stuff is just amazing, local and so cheap. More and more American restaurants are getting into this notion, especially with the advent of wine on draft so I suspect house wines will be coming to more menus over time. If it helps think about the wines sold by the glass sold at your favorite restaurants. Sommiliers always suggest you look towards that list if you are unfamiliar with wine or are
nervous about what to order by the bottle because usually its a list of wines that are easy to drink, not outrageously priced and tasty. The theory being that if something isn’t well liked they won’t sell enough of it to warrant selling it by the glass and it will disappear from the list. Ok if I have sold you on having your own house wine the logical next question is – which ones? Well of course you should pick wines that you really like but also make sure they are crowd pleasers. Don’t pick anything too strong or controversial (looking at you oaky chardonnays and heavy cabs). My advice is go to a place with a good selection of mid priced wines and buy a bunch to try. This kind of research is pretty fun so enlist some friends and figure out the crowd favorite.
For my white selection I totally cheated and picked my Mom’s. For years we just called it the “green wine” and still do – but its official ridiculously long name is Les Costieres de Pomerols Hugues Beaulieu Picpoul de Pinet. Years after we started drinking it we discovered that the Inn at Little Washington serves it so we must be doing something right. It’s light, with a hint of citrus and is delicious on its own (especially when its hot) or with food. The bottle is just so French and gorgeous – how about that color??? Also the price is right – in D.C. I can find it for $8 a bottle at most Whole Foods and Wegman’s but you can also get it on sale sometimes at World Market or Total Wine dropping the price as low as $6 a bottle. In Boston it seems to go for a bit more but for a French import you really cannot ask for anything better. Some of you may have noticed that it has a screw top – this is a recent change and one I embrace. Don’t turn your nose up at screw tops – they actually keep oxygen (the enemy of wine) out better than cork.
For reds I just sort of instinctively go towards Italy – their lush, balanced reds are so drinkable. If I had the budget people would be drinking barolos every time they come over but alas it’s not to be. I haven’t quite picked the perfect one yet but there are a couple of contenders at Trader Joes. So celebrate National Wine Day and kick back and have a glass or two – I just heard the pop of a bottle of bubbly that I am going to share with my BFF. I hope everyone has a great long weekend – let me know if you end up picking your own house wines so I can add them to my cellar.