Corkage is a per bottle fee charged by restaurants to customers who bring their own wine bottle to consume at a restaurant. Some states in the U.S. allow BYOB (or as we at WineLoversVillage affectionately call it, BYOW), but why would you pay a wine corkage fee to drink your own wine? Here are our top 5 reasons why, if you can, you should pay a corkage fee, and 3 reasons why you shouldn’t.
What is Wine Corkage Fees?
Corkage culture is not new to the United States, bandied about on wine discussion boards and conversation at many wine happy hours or dinners. Many believe bringing their own bottle (BYOB, or in this case BYOW, bringing your own wine) is an inalienable “Wine Lovers Bill of Rights,” akin to American’s right to vote. But what is a wine corkage fees and why and when should you pay it?
If you are lucky enough to live near a restaurant which allows BYOW, the question then becomes to pay the Corkage fee, or not to pay. Here are 5 reasons why we think you should…and a few reasons why you should not bring a bottle of wine and pay a corkage fee.
Bring a Bottle of Wine and Pay Corkage Fee when…
1. The restaurant does not carry wine and encourages BYOB. We love these restaurants and often plan ahead what we will be eating to determine what we will bring. Many restaurants post the daily specials on their websites and on their FaceBook pages we love to check it out before we decide what wine to bring. We have also been to a few restaurants that do not offer wine or other drinks but have a local wine store near by they coordinate with to offer a good selection for the menu of the day. These make for wonderful pairing as the chef and wine specialist have worked together to best prepare for your dining experience
2. Celebrate your birthday with a bottle the Birthday Year. This always makes for a fun evening. A word of caution: The older the bottle of wine; the older the cork. Also, if the bottle has not been stored right, make sure you the person opening the bottle knows to handle the potential issues. Finally, don’t be afraid to say, “That cork might be bad, would you be more comfortable if I opened it”.
3. Special occasion. Recently we hosted a couple for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants (when I say favorite we are there like once a week, and we drink a lot of their wine too). My husband wanted to share a special bottle of wine with the couple as a thank you for all the hard work the guy had put in at work. The bottle had been given to us, and my husband thought this was the perfect occasion.
4. As a conversation piece- YES! That is what I said. We have brought a bottle of wine that tells a story, we know the restaurant would not have it. It often is from our travels or a friend’s travels. When dining with folks you often do not go out with or it is a first time in this sort of environment it makes for the perfect occasion.
5. You know the restaurant and you know their wine selection. We bring our own bottle for two reasons in this category. Either, we know the wine selection is limited and not good. We have a few of these places and they are usually more mom and pop sort of restaurants. Where the food is excellent and we go back time and time again. We often know the owners and have had the discussion with them about the wine selection.
- For example, one place near our home admits wine is their weak point. To them, it’s not worth the time to grow their selection, so they invited us to bring our own. We always share a glass with the owner.
- Another good reason is the quality of the wine is not always great, and often ruined due to how they store the wine. One restaurant we frequent stores the wine in a window that gets direct sun all day. Sure, it looks really cool but the wine doesn’t sell fast enough to maintain the quality. This recently happened to us when we traveled to Puerto Rico. The wine was stored in such a cool visual setting but had direct expose to the sun in a humid part of the restaurant. We assumed the waiter would go in back and pull a bottle from another location, nope! The bottle of wine we wanted was a more expensive bottle, so we asked for a different bottle. The waiter said there was not another bottle and (kindly) suggested my husband walk two doors down to pick up the same bottle and only be charged a corkage fee. I am guessing they get that a lot.
Don’t bring a bottle of wine to a restaurant if…
- It’s Illegal. If you live in Colorado or other States or cities where the local law states it is illegal, or if it is a dry county
- Just to save money. Bringing your own bottle of wine should be for a special occasion or if you really want a bottle of wine the restaurant does not carry.
- If the restaurant offers the bottle on the menu. Be respectful. ‘Nuff said.
Have we missed anything? When are you willing to pay a corkage fee?
Next up for Corkage fees: the etiquette of bringing your own bottle Basically the Do’s and Don’ts!