In the European Union it is meant to designate the lowest quality level of wine produced, one that qualifies for neither an appellation nor even a broad regional designation. In France and Luxembourg it is called vin de table. Similar in nature are Spain's vino de mesa, Romania`s vin de masă, Portugal's vinho de mesa, Italy's vino da tavola, Greece's epitrapezios oinos, and Germany's Tafelwein
In the United States, the official definition for table wine is a wine that contains a minimum of 7 percent alcohol and a maximum of 14 percent. In other words, table wine is a wine that is neither sparkling nor fortified. This definition does not define quality in any way, although some connote table wine with lower-quality, inexpensive wine. This is inaccurate as many wines that simply say "Red Table Wine" or "White Table Wine" are of excellent quality and not at all inexpensive.
European table wines are generally made from the highest-yielding sites and vinified in an industrial manner. In the 1950s, when per capita consumption of wine was much higher, there was a need for vast quantities of cheap wine, but now much of it goes into the European Union's troublesome "wine lake." Even today it is possible in France or Spain to purchase a liter of thin, pale wine, packaged in a box rather than a bottle, for the equivalent of a couple of U.S. dollars.
The best-known examples are the wines called Super Tuscans, which are made either with more than allowed quantities of international varieties (grapes not indigenous to Italy such as Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon) or without the once mandated inclusion of small proportions of Cannaiolo, Malvasia and Trebbiano per the relevant Tuscan appellation (i.e. Montevertine's Pergole Torte).
In 1992, Italy created the Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) specifically to permit Super Tuscans to leave the table wine classification and become quality wine. Still, wherever legitimacy in a given appellation is stipulated by something more than a geographic boundary, one may find producers willing to ignore limitations in pursuit of quality.
In common usage vin de table (often called vin ordinaire) is the 4th and lowest ranked wine under the French wine classification. These wines are the cheapest to buy and to make (they can be bought from €0,80), and are generally drunk accompanying a midday meal or used to make wine-based cocktails.