Dec 17, 2014

Corkage, WTF!

It’s easy to get your knickers all in a knot over paying all that money (Wasting The Finances), for some waiter or waitress, to open your bottle of wine. Look, it only takes a second to open and you carried it in! Stone the crows, are they bloody kidding! $20-30 dollars to open a bottle! They even have the stones to charge by the standard bottle for magnums etc. That is two corkage fees for a single magnum! It’s the same principal for larger format bottles as well. Someone has a couple of roo’s loose in the upper paddock. 

Or do they?  First off BYOB is not legal all over the globe. Do your homework first and know the laws in your area. For those places where it is legal the welcoming  smile or the scowl of bringing your own bottle will vary depending on where you are. That being said, in California it is legal and generally well accepted, with the aforementioned corkage fees. So how much is too much? Is any amount too much? Well, here are some thoughts on the subject.
Most restaurants are a small margin business and as such are always looking for a way to keep that margin. That way they will be around the next time you want to eat out. Let’s face it, you are using the establishment’s stemware and the staff time to clean it, deliver it fill it after uncorking or unscrewing your bottle. The disposal of your bottle, the replacement of the broken stemware and the investment in the special wine glass washer, are all a factor, and when added up is not insignificant. Now before you think we went to the other side read on!

Look, our personal beef is not with the basic corkage fee, but the multiplying of that fee for large format bottles. So restaurants take note! We at WineWalkabout propose that a magnum, instead of 2 times corkage should be perhaps 1.5 times. A Jeroboam instead of 4 times corkage fee perhaps 2 times the standard corkage. You get the picture. It’s not like they are changing out the stemware (like they should be) as if you have multiple bottles of different wine. We think this strikes a balance that meets the needs of the Restaurant and their valued customers.

The purchase price of wine at a well stocked Restaurant is also up for discussion, but for now we will stick to discussing corkage. Your other choice is to just purchase from the wine list. Now typically at 2 -2.5 times the normal retail sale price that takes your average $40 bottle of wine to $80 -$100. Corkage added on to your $40 bottle now makes it $60. Do your own math on the savings. Now it’s not always convenient to bring your own so on the occasions you do, just remember that for the next bottle purchased at the restaurant, you can apply that savings and it all averages out.
It’s always a smooth move to ask if the wine person / sommelier person would like to try your (fine) wine.  That can sometimes result in a diminished or non-existent corkage fee, worth a shot right, and all it cost you was a couple of ounces and a smile.

Another reason to BYO sometimes is the plain and simple truth that good restaurant chefs cook better meals than we do. At least in our case the best meals deserve the best wine and a trained chef preparing a fine meal at a lovely restaurant screams bring a good bottle or two. There are times when we want to be able to enjoy our special (and not let them die) bottles of wine with good food / friends and therefore, occasionally to pair our great wine with their great food.

Happy wine adventures



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