The Cyrano Wine Column - Restaurant Wine Lists (a primer) Part 3

November 5, 2023

Previously we have addressed those things which make a wine list acceptable or not and how to order in a given situation, but what to do if there are no acceptable options and you cannot dismiss this restaurant altogether based on the wine choices?
One choice would be to bring your own bottle from home, and this decision is rife with the possibility of making blunders that can make you look cheap or an absolute rube, or, worst of all – both.

But fear not, for these mistakes can be easily avoided and, if you follow the suggestions below you will be viewed as having the utmost class and bearing and, hopefully a very impressive grasp of the art of bringing your own bottle (B.Y.O.B.) to better restaurants with established wine lists.

What is Corkage?

Corkage is a service offered by a restaurant (in states where allowed) to customers who would like to bring in their own wines for consumption in the restaurant. It is up to each restaurant to decide whether they want to offer corkage or not and what the charge will be.

Contrary to popular belief, a restaurant does not have to offer corkage.

The basic assumption here is that you are bringing in a wine because:
• the wine is of sentimental value or special to you in some way
• the wine is not easily procured
• there is absolutely nothing on the list that would suffice as an acceptable replacement (a slippery slope if there ever was one).

The following dos and don’ts are important in order to obviate the restaurant getting the impression that you are bringing a wine in just to save a bit of money (which no one would do, right?) or that you are so narrow minded you could not imagine trying something you have never had.

Call and check to see if the restaurant you are going to offers corkage (or check the website).
Inform the restaurant when making a reservation that you intend on bringing in a wine of your own.
Bring in a wine that is already on the wine list.
Bring in more than 1 bottle of wine.
Order a wine with which to start before having your wine opened. Most restaurants will waive the corkage fee.
Offer a taste of the wine to the waiter or sommelier.
Bring in a wine that is easily found at the grocery store or is mass-produced. Think about it- if you buy a wine for 15 or 20 dollars at the store you are going to be in for 40 or 45 dollars once corkage is figured. There should be something to drink for that price or below on a good list.
Demand special stemware or decanting if your wine does not merit it (i.e. younger or current vintage wines)
Tip as if you had purchased a bottle off the list. It is just good manners.

* Click here to see Cyrano’s top ten list of wines NOT to bring to bring to a restaurant

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