Many of us already do it without realizing the genius behind it. You know that one chardonnay you always keep a couple of bottles of in your laundry room fridge? You stock it because you like it, you feel good serving it, and you can afford to keep it on hand. You've essentially established a house wine—the sip that illustrates your personal taste and sense of hospitality as soon as you pour guests a glass.
The guidelines for choosing a house wine are simple: Most important, this wine needs to be mellow enough that it is easy to drink, both with food and on its own. The color of your house beverage—be it red, white, or pink—is completely dictated by your taste. If you want to have both a red and a white—or perhaps rotate by season—do it; that's your call. Regardless of color, you'll want a bottle that's relatively inexpensive (in the $12 to $15 range). Therein lies one of the ultimate payoffs: Buying 12 bottles of your chosen label makes for a cheaper shopping trip, as most retailers offer a 10% to 15% discount on a case. Beyond saving cash, committing to an all-purpose wine means no questions or confusion about which bottle to open next: You're always prepped to pour.
Top-Notch House Wines
A signature of great house wines is being stylistically middle-of-the-road, not too rich and not too lean. Anything too far to either end of the spectrum can clash with people's palates as well as foods you'd like to serve it with. Here are four balanced crowd-pleasers guaranteed to satisfy on any occasion—from formal celebrations to weeknight dinners.
Adami Prosecco Brut "Garbèl," Italy, NV ($15)
Saint Cosme Côtes du Rhône, France, 2013 ($15)
Bodegas Muga Rosado, Rioja, Spain, 2013 ($12)
Foxglove Chardonnay, Central Coast, California, 2012 ($13)