Often in the past, ordering a glass of wine was as easy as saying "I'll have a glass of the house red" or "I'll have a glass of the house white." House wines were very common at restaurants and met the needs and expectations of many diners.
Today, ordering a glass of wine can often be downright difficult or intimidating. Restaurants are offering today's wine drinkers a wide array of options, sometimes contained in a multi-page wine list made into a book.
During a recent dinner at a mid-range restaurant, a guest at the table asked the server for "a glass of your house red wine." The server asked, "What type of wine are you interested in?" Again, the guest simply stated they wanted "just a glass of red wine." The problem was that the restaurant didn't have a house wine. So the server suggested "Would like something like a Zinfandel or a Petite Sirah?" The guest, becoming a bit frustrated with the situation, simply repeated, "I'd just like a glass of red wine." It made for a bit of an uncomfortable situation for the guest. Whether it was for lacking of caring, lack of knowledge of wines, or from pure intimidation, it didn't need to happen.
If you fall into a situation where you just want a glass of wine and you really don't care about the grape it's made from or where it's grown, you should first ask if there is a house wine available. And while "House Wine" may sound very generic, they are wines that are produced and bottled for sale by a winery and ones that the establishment chooses to feature. They should reflect on the quality of the establishment. These wines are usually very drinkable, very affordable, and can be enjoyed before or with a meal.
But, there is another option. If you are just looking for a glass of wine, and a specific house wine is not available, simply ask your server what they'd recommend. Once they understand that you are looking for a house wine, they'll know you are looking for an affordable, easy to drink wine. The server should always be able to tell you about a popular wine that a lot of people are ordering or something they really like that is in your price range. Then, go with their recommendation. Worst-case, if you really don't like what they bring you, tell them and they'll bring something else.
Ordering a house wine can be a great option. Or, your server should be more than happy to help you by selecting a wine that you will enjoy and that will go well with the occasion or with your meal. Cheers!