To Cork or Not to Cork?
|May 29, 2011||Posted by Ashley Marie under Drinks, Miscellaneous Sh!t, Places to Eat|
Ack, the dreaded corkage fee. Or is it?
My mother, a devoted quaffer (who has since bred a second generation, equally as devoted quaffer) can tell you best: Being able to bring your own bottle of wine to a restaurant is nothing short of a privilege. Yes, a privilege. You want to charge me a small fee on my personal bottle without having to buy yours at a 400 percent markup? Sure. One that I’m guaranteed to like (although not usually a problem)? Okay! And you’ll chill it and pour it and treat it like the delicacy that it is? Absolutely. I’m not one to eschew the opportunity to enjoy my meal with a wine that is new to my palate, but when it comes to saving money, not having to translate and all-Italian selection or avoiding daunting, obfuscating, dictionary-sized wine lists (that typically only stupefy a novice like me), I think you have me sold.
That being said, there are a couple of rules to restaurant BYOB. There is no official handbook, but I have compiled my own small list:
#1. Call ahead
Be sure to check with the restaurant ahead of time to make sure that they even allow BYOB. Some places don’t, in which case you should know before you go in all willy nilly with some great wine that they refuse to open.
#2. Ask about the corkage fee
Make sure to inquire about the convenience charge, or corkage fee, as to not be surprised or embarrassed. Fancy-schmancy places like Jean-Georges charge a hefty $85. If it exceeds $20-$25, you may want to reconsider. Anything less than that is a bargain. Also, question if there is a bottle limit if you are considering bringing more than one. At this point, you can decide if paying the restaurant’s fee outweighs purchasing a bottle from their list.
#3. Only bring a bottle that you’d consider “special”
This means boutique wines, wines that are only available from their winery or a particular one that’s been aging in your cellar. If it’s from your local grocery, it probably shouldn’t be considered. Aim for bottles that are at least $50.
#4. Tip well
I’m not talking your typical 20 percent (you are tipping 20 percent, no?). Tip as if you bought the wine there. If you’re not quite sure how much you spent on that particular bottle, be sure to tip a little extra. Servers aren’t into free labor. Trust me, they’ll appreciate it.
Bring in a bottle that is on their wine list. Rude.
Bring in your own stemware in some wine purse. Pretentious.
Feel obligated to offer the sommelier a taste. Unnecessary.
For your convenience, here are a few of my top restaurant picks in Charlotte and the corkage fees that they charge (per bottle). If it’s too high for you, just remember that these places offer their own great selections and the food will far surpass any measly fee.
Vivace, $10 corkage fee, 1100 Metropolitan Avenue, Suite 100
Georges Brasserie, $15 corkage fee, 4620 Piedmont Row Drive, Suite 110
Sonoma, $15 corkage fee, 100 N. Tryon Street
Zebra, $20 corkage fee, 4521 Sharon Road
Villa Antonio, $25 corkage fee, 14825 John J. Delaney Drive, Suite 100