Bring Your Own Wine: Corkage Etiquette
October 2, 2012
In July, B.C. joined the ranks of Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, and many U.S. states and made it legal for diners to bring wine with them to restaurants to enjoy with dinner. There is no longer an obligation to buy from a restaurant's wine list: the bring-your-own-wine policy-BYOW for short-allows you to be your own sommelier. An especially useful thing for rooms where the food is excellent but the wine program is not.
Restaurants welcome BYOW in general. By promoting the enjoyment of wine with food, it promotes the concept of restaurant dining. The challenge for restaurants is to establish a fair price for the effort that goes into serving you. This is called corkage and the fee takes into account the opening and service of the wine, the glassware, and dishwashing.
Sommeliers devote much time and effort to curating a wine list that matches the food and mood of a restaurant. However, as true wine lovers they naturally support the choice that BYOW allows, especially when customers bring in a special bottle.
1. First of all, don't be embarrassed or furtive about taking your bottle. Relax -the industry has waited a long time for this.
2. Call ahead. Restaurants are not obliged to offer BYOW. Some have bottle number limits or large format restrictions; some may have a no-corkage-fee night that you want to be aware of.
3. Take your wine pre-chilled if it is white, rosé, or sparkling and the first wine that you are having. This will minimize any delay for you.
4. Most restaurants live and die by liquor sales so a nice gesture is to order a glass of wine from the list before your bottle is opened.
5. Don't take a bottle that is already on a restaurant's wine list. Most lists are posted online so you can check ahead.
6. Take your wine(s) in a bag labelled with your name. Discuss any special treatment like decanting or aerating with the staff so your bottle is treated as you wish.
7. BYOW should promote moderation, not the opposite. It is perfectly acceptable to take the unused portion of a bottle back home