What’s the Difference Between Table Wine and Regular Wine?
No longer a common wine phrase, table wine is an old-fashioned term. So, don’t fear if you don’t know what it is.
Maybe you’re wondering what kind of tables are used to make this table wine? Perhaps there’s also a standing wine or beanbag chair wine available on the market? But don’t worry. As always, we’re here to share our wine knowledge, and help you better understand the wonderful world of wine.
In this short guide, we’ll discuss what table wine means, how the definition changes depending on where you are in the world, and the best way to choose table wine.
What Is Table Wine?
A widely accepted definition of table wine is that it’s a fairly cheap wine enjoyed with meals. However, that’s a pretty vague explanation. There are hundreds of factors that can dictate a wine’s price — from where the grapes were grown to the winemaking process to who’s selling you the wine in the first place. Price doesn’t always constitute quality or the lack thereof.
“Fairly cheap” is also subjective. After all, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. While spending $30 on a bottle of wine may seem exorbitant to you, it’s a drop in the bucket for someone with plenty to spend.
Furthermore, all wine can be enjoyed with a meal — it all depends on pairing a particular bottle with compatible dishes. For example, a large range of Merlots are a brilliant addition to heavy red-meat meals, while a deliciously sweet dessert wine tastes even better when drunk in tandem with a rich dessert.
Our point is: The term “table wine” harkens back to a time when people followed strict rules in regard to wine. But as wine has become more accessible to everyday people, wine lovers have begun to reject these rules, choosing to drink wine in whichever way they choose.
Even though you’re unlikely to hear the term from your local sommelier, “table wine” does sometimes pop up. If you’re heading to a wine tasting event, you may hear wine experts referring to a certain bottle as a perfect table wine. However, the definition of table wine changes depending on where you are in the world.
Table Wine in the United States
The American definition of table wine is quite easy to understand compared to countries across the Atlantic.
Traditionally, in the United States, a table wine is lower in alcohol, never exceeding 14% ABV (alcohol by volume). This allows your dinner party guests to enjoy more than one glass with their meal without getting too tipsy.
In the U.S., table wine is a term that points to a wine of moderate quality. While we’ve already discussed the subjective nature of dictating the quality of wine, we think this refers to choosing a wine that will still be affordable if you order several bottles for everyone to enjoy.
We stand by the opinion that all wine is suitable to eat with your meal if it’s what you like. Still, there are some exceptionally complex bottles that probably should be enjoyed on their own to experience the true nuances of the wine.
By American standards, table wines are also known as easy drinking wines. Easy drinking wines have a reputation for being very light, fresh, and perhaps lacking in complexity. Generally speaking, these table wines are crowd pleasers — they’re wines that will be popular with the majority of your party.
Wines like Pinot Grigio are perfect examples of table wines, as they are usually light in flavor and pair easily with a wide range of cuisines, plus many people enjoy this Italian classic. However, this is where the term “table wine” gets tricky, as there are also plenty of people who cannot bear Pinot Grigio.
Finally, old-fashioned wine rules say that table wines don’t include sparkling or sweet wines. And to this we say phooey. Anyone who’s ever enjoyed a bottle of Prosecco over a fabulous brunch with friends will know sparkling wines make for brilliant table wines.
Table Wine in Europe
In Europe, table wine is a little more complex. While in the U.S. deciding if a wine is a good table wine is more subjective, Europeans follow more specific labeling rules.
Regarding wine as table wine in Europe has a lot to do with wine appellation. Simply put, wine appellation refers to a protected wine region in which a bottle of wine is produced. It also refers to specific techniques used when making the wine.
If a wine has been produced in line with these strict rules, the winemakers may put a specific stamp on their labels. For European wines, this is the letters PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) or PDO (Protected Designation of Origin). These stamps are for the consumers, so they can make a more informed decision about where their wine is coming from.
The wine world is very particular about wine regions, especially in Europe. The European Union Wine regulations insist that wines from specific “quality regions” also include the QWPSR (Quality Wines produced in specific regions) mark of approval. While these stamps are there for the benefit of the consumer, you shouldn’t worry about them too much, unless you’re set on becoming a wine collector.
On the other side of the coin is table wine. Table wine (or vin de table as it’s known in France) is regarded as any wine that’s not produced in these wine appellations — therefore, it’s a wine without this elusive stamp of approval.
The problem with this logic is that just because a wine is not from a PDO or PGI doesn’t mean it’s of lower quality. If you’re looking to pop open a few bottles of posh PDO wine at dinner to share with friends, go for it. Or, if you fancy sitting quietly, and taking your time enjoying your favorite “lower quality wine,” you should. Don’t let these outdated rules tell you how to enjoy your wine.
A Wine by Any Other Name Would Taste as Sweet
As you can see, we don’t really buy into the idea of table wine. In our humble opinion, if a wine is on a table, it’s a table wine.
We agree that some extra special bottles are probably best consumed on their own to appreciate complex, nuanced flavors. But wine is made to be enjoyed. Whether you’re looking for a red table wine or a white table wine, it doesn’t matter.
However, if you like to live life by the book and are looking for a good wine to serve at your next dinner party, we do have a few tips. Look for bottles with less than 14 % alcohol and light flavors. If you want to be traditional, stay away from any bottles with the letters PDO, PGI, or QWPSR on the label.
But instead of trying to discover the perfect table wine, why not order a few different bottles for your table, ensuring everyone has a wine they’ll enjoy drinking with their meal? Better yet, consider our mixed bottle multi-pack. This way everyone gets their own mini bottle of a wine they’ll love.