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5 Golden Rules of Bringing Your Own (Wine)

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008 at 12:38:42 PM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies

Leather CarrierIf you have a special bottle of wine at home, you may be surprised how many restaurants have policies that allow you to bring it with you when you visit. Restaurants often markup wines at over 200% of their retail cost, so it’s tempting to select a bottle from your cellar and bring your own, rather than pay the markup. There is no need to fret or be ashamed, as long as you follow the golden rules:

5) Call the restaurant first, and ask what their “corkage policy” is. Policies change frequently so it’s always safe to ask.

4) Ask how much the corkage fee is in advance, so you are prepared. Restaurants may charge anywhere from $15-$50 per bottle, depending on the price of the wines on their list. It is rare for a restaurant to allow you to bring wine without charging a corkage fee, though some do.

Be sure that the wine you’re bringing isn’t on their list. It’s considered in poor taste to bring a wine that the restaurant offers.

2) Carry your wine in a fashionable wine bag.  We offer everything from handy Neoprene wine bags to leather shoulder carriers, so that you can “bring your own” in style. Neoprene Wine BagWe even offer wine bags that hold stemware for you, if you are concerned about the restaurants’ selection.

1) When you are seated at the table, let the waiter know that you’ve brought your own wine and that you understand the policy of paying corkage for it. He’ll bring glassware and uncork the bottle for you, this is the service behind the corkage fee.

I hope that with these 5 golden rules, you’ll be comfortable bringing your own wine the next time you eat out! It’s a great way to save money, and take advantage of your collection. Do you ever bring your own wine? Leave a comment, and let us know!

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16 Responses to “5 Golden Rules of Bringing Your Own (Wine)”

  1. Rule Number 6: Always be aware that some restaurants do not allow wine to be brought in because it is against state laws. The laws in these states typically say that no alcohol can be served that has not been purchased through the state or authorized distributor.

  2. @Charles That’s a good addition, thanks!

  3. I would add that many restaurants have a policy of forgiving the corkage fee on a “one for one” basis. We usually take an older red from the cellar and purchase a younger white from the list for special events.
    It is also polite to offer your server and/or sommelier a sample of the wine you have brought.

  4. 4 Zoe Heinmiller said:

    You should also mention that the final tip should be based on the total of the food plus the value of the wine that
    you brought to the restaurant.

  5. We have a local family owned italian restaurant with no liquor license so they don’t charge for corkage. A couple of doors down is a wine shop. A match made in heaven. The only rule is that you must be prepared to share a tasting with the restaurant owner as he loves to sample all of the wines.

  6. @Steve and @Shannon That’s another great tip. Personally when I bring my own, I try to share as well.

    @Zoe I’m not sure I agree that the tip should be based on the price of the wine you brought. If I bring an expensive wine, the same amount of work is required to open it as a more affordable bottle. Tipping can be a sensitive subject though and people are entitle to their own practices.

  7. I think tipping would be somewhere in the middle. I agree with Zoe that each bottle requires the same amount of work, unless it’s decanted.

  8. There are many schools of thought on how to tip on bottles of wine, whether brought in by the guest, or purchased by the guest. I had one guest who only tipped $3.00 and he always bought expensive wine. I asked him why he did that, his response was it takes as much work to open a $200 bottle as a $30 bottle, so I tip on the $30.

    With a corkage, it is entirely appropriate to give a cash tip directly to the wine steward or server and do not include it in the food tip.

    Many guests will tip 10% on wine and 20% on food. Remember, in high end restaurants, the server pays the wine steward a healthy portion of thier tips for the wine sold. A good way to do it is list who gets what portion of your tip, i.e. Host $20, Wine Steward $50…. That way, you are assured the wine steward gets as much as you wanted him to.

  9. I bring my wine with me to resturants all of the time and have never had any problems. This has not happened to me as of yet, but I alway cringe when I see them open my wine. If you bring an old bottle to celebrate and event and an aggressive wine steward breaks the cork off in the bottle, how do you tip someone that has just ruined your expensive bottle?

  10. I always open my wine bottle that I’m taking to the restaurant at home . Then I can decide if the wine has aged well and will be appropriate for the dinner. (Of course, I transport it then in the trunk of my car.)

  11. I am in the wine business and I agree with the 5 rules. When you call and ask about the corkage fee, many times I’ve heard, what’s that or I think it’s $10 only to find out it’s $20 when you are seated. It’s a good idea when you call, to not only confirm the fee , but also get the name of the person with whom you spoke. Also, if you bring along a special bottle, bring your own corkscrew that you are comfortable with, then politely inform the steward that you would like to open it. Finally, please do not bring a $7.99 critter label supermarket special.

  12. Zoe,

    I thought it was illegal to take an open bottle into a restaurant. If not, this would certainly expand the opportunity to decant younger wines an appropriate time before drinking.

  13. Question: What is considered proper etiquette for taking home a bottle of wine ordered in and from a restaurant? For example, should I order a bottle and not finish it (I’m only one man, you know), is it improper to ask for it to be recorked so I can take it away with me?

  14. Alexander,

    It is definitely proper and just. You paid for it, so it is yours. (Note that this applies to a bottle that you brought, too.)

    Depending on the state, you are allowed to take home your bottle, opened or not (and may depend on their license if not opened.) Most restaurants are prepared for this and will either re-cork it with the original cork (easiest if you mention this to them when originally pulled, or just put it in your pocket for safe keeping from over-zealous bus persons) or another cork. They should also place it in a paper bag, as a courtesy, as well as some jurisdictions do not allow open containers to be exposed. And, as mentioned above, always be sure to transport it in the trunk or other inaccessible area of your vehicle.

  15. Is there a resource listing the “corkage” laws in different states? I live in PA and have been told by restaurant owners both that it is not legal in this state and that it is.

  16. Hi Judi– I haven’t been able to find a good overall resource of state laws on corkage. My guess is that if one restaurant says it’s legal, the restaurant that says it’s not may be embellishing. I’ve found that restaurants try to dismiss people who want to BYO by saying it’s illegal when it often isn’t. Wish I could be more help on the individual state laws, let me know if you find something useful!

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