When ordering wine in Rome, seek out a quality house wine. House wine (Italian: vino della casa) refers to bulk wine served at restaurants. You’ll find it costs much less than its bottled-and-labeled brethren. Speaking of which, house wine generally arrives by the glass or carafe. Rarely will you find it bottled.
So, what is house wine exactly? That’s the thing. There’s no set definition for it. In fact, it’s always fun discovering what kind of house wine is on offer at each restaurant. Originally, restaurants produced their own house wines. But that’s exceedingly rare nowadays. Sometimes restaurants use their house wine to highlight local specialties. Some restauranteurs strike a deal directly with a winemaker for barrels of excellent wine, sparing the winemaker from bottling, labeling and wholesale-selling. Still other times, sadly, house wines are used as an excuse to get rid of an over-supply of vino.
Is House Wine in Rome Really Worth It?
For many people, “house wine” is synonymous with low-to-middling quality. Honestly, this isn’t always the case at all. Especially in a city like Rome, which has such a long history of exceptional winemaking, it’s easy to find a surprisingly good house wine.
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At roughly half the cost of a bottle, ordering house wine will save a ton of money over the duration of your trip. While still enjoying one of Italy’s favorite pastimes: drinking great wine with family and friends. Although, not all house wines are “diamonds in the rough,” restaurants with a good reputation as well as authentic family run joints take pride in offering quality house wine.
How to Order House Wine
For those who want to flex their language muscles when ordering wine in Rome, memorize these phrases for house wine:
- “Prendiamo un quarto di rosso della casa.“
- “Prendiamo un mezzo litro di rosso della casa.“
The first sentence roughly translates to, “bring us a quart of the red house wine.” In the second sentence, the speaker is asking for a “half liter” rather than a “quart.” If you’re more in the mood for a white house wine, then substitute the “roso” with “bianco.”
Tips for Finding Fantastic House Wine
Before committing to the house wine, ask your waiter for a taste using the following:
- “Posso assaggiare il vino della casa?“
Ask your waiter questions like what kinds of house wine they offer and what region(s) they come from. The more detailed responses you get to your questions, the more likely this house wine is legit.
Also, don’t expect high-quality house wines in places that don’t have decent wine lists and food menus to start off with. While some hole-in-the-wall dives pour a phenomenal house wine, the odds of this happening grow slim in tourist-centric Rome. Your best bet for landing a tasty house wine is at a well-established and/or family run restaurant, one frequented by locals.