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The quality of a restaurant’s “house wines” many times reflects the quality of the establishment. So why does house wine seem to have a bad reputation on wine lists?

It could be because too often the house wines are the half-consumed bottles hanging around with dubious quality or a past history as generic “red” or “white.” But wine can be a pricey addition to the check in any restaurant, so ordering the house selection is one way to get the best value.

It pays to patronize restaurants that take their wine lists seriously. If a restaurant takes good care of its wine, including its house wine offerings, you will probably find the food, service and atmosphere are also good. Many restaurants offer price-saving wine selections listing as many as five choices for white and red to give diners more food-pairing options.

In the past, house wines were generally the cheapest and most profitable for restaurants. Today this idea is outdated. Reputable restaurants are looking to keep customers coming back for excellence in food, wine and service. Some are looking to carry wines to match the house cuisine and others are bringing in wines with no or low profit.

Don’t be afraid to ask the restaurant to open a new bottle of house wine if you think the one already opened has lost its life. I always look around to see how the opened bottles are being stored. If they are kept on a hot windowsill at the bar with an old cork shoved back in, chances are the wine has lost its quality. Wines can be resealed with many inexpensive devices, and quality restaurants always adhere to this standard.