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Dear Dr. Vinny,

I’m still not sure if a house wine is purchased from a brand-name winery by a restaurant, or is it made by the restaurant and stored by the owner?

—Tatjana, Canada

Dear Tatjana,

There are some diverging trends when it comes to “house wines,” but it’s fair to assume the wines were made by a winery (which has the necessary facilities and licensing) and not by a restaurant. Traditionally, house wines are just affordable, basic options of red and white wines that are sold by the glass, or sometimes by the carafe or bottle.

Some restaurants take more care picking their house wines, finding wines that complement their cuisine, or even getting involved with the blend or getting private bottlings made for them by a winery. House wines that are more specialized will often say so—look for clues about the producer or winemaker, or terms like “private bottling.” If the house wine doesn’t even tell you what its varietal, appellation or vintage are, chances are pretty good it’s the affordable, quaffable use of the term.

—Dr. Vinny

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