Wine Director Jared Hooper is behind Faith & Flower's expansive, French and California-heavy wine list, which he designed to pair with the Downtown LA restaurant's New American fare. Below, Hooper explains "House Wine."
Q: What's the deal with house wine? Is it cheap wine, is it wine that's selling poorly, is it genuinely a very good bottle that sommeliers/restaurants want to highlight for their guests at a good price, is it not really even that cheap?
Hooper: One of my favorite red sauce dives in LA had an unofficial, for those in the know, 25-cent Dixie cup of red wine while you waited for your table. On a recent visit, my buddy was horrified to hear that the price had risen to 50-cents. Upon further inquiry into the charge hike, the response was that the price of gas had gone up. My conclusion is that gasoline is clearly a major ingredient of that particular "House Wine."
"House Wine" is an intentionally vague category with many possible connotations. In some cases, it can be a special labeling just for that restaurant, or a tie-in through cross promotion. In other instances, the open-ended "House Wine" moniker affords a restaurant more range to offer out wines they are ready to move, such as, left over event wine, the last few bottles of a case, or something the restaurant has gotten a deal on. There's nothing wrong with a house wine; it will all depend on the house that's pouring it. And in all honesty, if you're more in the mood for an inexpensive, nonspecific glass of white or red, then you should ask for it. (Who cares what the sommelier thinks?)
Even in a restaurant without a house wine, there should be plenty of options available for a guest looking for a less expensive glass or bottle of wine. Your sommelier or server should be able to help with that. I go out of my way to have a lot of affordable "Tuesday night" options that I'd personally be super happy with on a normal night when I don't want to break the bank. I think that's an important category for a good restaurant to have. Speak honestly with your sommelier and give them a price range. We are there to help bring you something we respect and you'll enjoy. Without our guests, we don't have our greatest purpose, which is to share what we love.