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WE always meet with friends from Washington DC in January on their trip to the UK. We dine out with an unwritten proviso: we go to a restaurant, have the set menu, drink tap water and house wine. The adage is: if the house wine is no good, neither is the restaurant.

Every restaurant should have a decent house wine for there is now so much choice. It's hard to think back to the painful days when the ubiquitous Italian restaurants only served a house wine from those ghastly double litre bottles of rubbish.

I admire a restaurant that has a selection reflecting its style of food. A fish restaurant should have a muscadet as a house wine, just as an Argentinian steak house would serve a malbec.

Many restaurants now have several house selections, all available by the glass. In London there is a big trend back to carafes in varying sizes, but with something decent on offer - not just vin ordinaire. The proliferation of varietal wines from every country now makes finding the style to match a meal far easier, and it's easy to offer three whites and three reds.

Supermarkets have long sold many varietal wines from different countries for its easy for their customers to understand. With a minimal knowledge, shoppers can find something close to what they are looking for, particularly if they appreciate a variety might be quite different from different countries.

I have to applaud the new range of house wine available in Sainsbury's. They are mostly varietals, and for well under a fiver make very acceptable drinking without any frills. The whites are muscadet, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay. It's a good first lesson in seeing the difference between the three and what style food they will go with.

The reds are beaujolais, cotes du rhone, merlot and cabernet sauvignon. Again line them up and the variation is quite marked. Most of all they are so sensibly priced that even my American friends should smile at these.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jan 15, 2011
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