Traditionally a wine house referred to a farm that grew vines on their own land. The grapes grew in the vineyard and the wine was produced in the wine house. They dealt with all aspects involved in creating the final product. A traditional wine house was responsible for everything involved with the grape including harvesting all the way through to the ageing and bottling process. They were self-contained wine factories. The five primary stages a wine house had to deal with were grape harvesting, crushing, clearing, ageing and bottling. All stages of the product were stored in the wine house until distribution.
Today the term wine house has a much broader use. The wine houses of today rarely have anything to do with the harvesting or brewing process. Many are still located on a vineyard, but they are there as a retail or tasting outlet. Several wine houses have been converted over to restaurants that offer the vintages from the local vineyard.
Most modern wine houses, which are not located on a specific vineyard, offer a wide variety of wines from several vineyards. This makes them a one-stop shopping adventure where you can find all of your favorite wines. Many of these wine houses have wine bars where you can stop in and sample many of their offerings.
Wine house has also become a broader term used to describe cafes and bistros which are set up, in a similar style to a traditional British tea house, where small meals can ordered to accompany the wine. Like a coffee-house these frequently host local artists. They also host tasting events where they offer discounted samples of a wide variety of wines.
When looking at visiting something that calls themselves a wine house it is good to be prepared so you know what style of wine house you might be visiting. If it is a traditional wine house then you can be certain that you will only be sampling wines from the vineyards they are associated with. Non-traditional wine houses tend to offer a wider selection. When visiting any wine house always drink responsibly.