Corkage – What is it?

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This Wine Wednesday, let’s talk about corkage.

Or rather, The Corkage Fee.

Did you know that many restaurants that serve wine will allow you to bring your own wine in to drink during your meal?

I don’t think it’s something that most restaurants particularly like to offer, but they do understand that there may be a special occasion where you want to pop the cork on a very special bottle.

What is a Corkage Fee?

In order to offer you this opportunity to bring your own wine, but still cover the costs of serving your wine in their stemware, a Corkage Fee is added.

Most restaurants mark up the wine that they offer at least 100% more than the retail price. {We’ve all seen that $40 bottle of wine on the menu that we know we can get at the store for $12.99, right?} Sometimes it’s difficult to fork out the money when we know this, especially if we know the wine isn’t really that good anyway.

And while wine {and alcohol in general} can be a decent profit-maker for the restaurateur, consider the fact that you are paying for not only the wine, but also the cost of the wine service itself. It is for this reason that the Corkage Fee is applied.

You may not be aware that the following items are just a few of the overhead costs that are included in your wine service:

  • Stemware
    • Breakage and replacement is inevitable!
    • Higher end restaurants often use higher end stemware.
  • Dishwashing
    • The dishwasher’s time and care of the stemware is important. They must take great care, especially with more delicate stemware, to minimize breakage and make that glass shine!
  • Payroll
    • Patrons who order or bring in their own wine often linger longer. Whether or not a wine is brought in, they still need to pay their staff.
    • Higher end restaurants may employ a sommelier who not only takes the time to put together a list of a wide variety of quality wines to ensure that you have proper pairing options; but also has the education and expertise to help you select a wine based on your preferences and budget.

How much is a Corkage Fee?

While it is not legal in all states for restaurants to allow you to BYO wine, those that do will charge a Corkage Fee of anywhere from $10 to $35. You’ll probably see most corkage fees on the higher end of that range. Also, expect that if most of the wine list consists of higher priced wines, the corkage will most likely be higher priced, too. Some corkages are more expensive just so that they can offer you the opportunity, but discourage you from wanting to bring in your own bottle.

We have been to a restaurant or two that require no Corkage Fee {We sadly miss Palomino which used to reside in the Hennepin Theater District}, but it is fairly uncommon. I don’t quite understand how they can get by without it.

Some restaurants may simply not offer the BYO option. Why? Customers don’t show respect for this privilege when they commit the following faux pas:

Don’t Do It!

  • Don’t bring a wine that’s already on their wine list. Yes, we know you can get it cheaper elsewhere. Yes, it might even be cheaper to bring in that wine and pay the corkage fee. One word: rude.
  • Don’t bring a low-end wine. Seriously, your Three-Buck Chuck is not going to prove any points. If anything, you are sending the message that you don’t value the food they serve – that it’s just as low in quality. The general rule of thumb is to bring a wine equal to or more than the retail of the lowest priced wine available by the bottle on their list.
  • Don’t argue or complain about the Corkage Fee. This is a service they are offering to you. Pay them respect for the courtesy.
  • Don’t bring in a bottle of wine still in the brown paper bag from the store or with a price sticker still on it. Tacky! You can bring the bottle in by itself or carry it in a nice tote like the one pictured below. Since you should always bring your white wine pre-chilled, this tote will keep it chilled for you in transport. {I also keep several of these in my luggage to pack wine to bring home from vacation!}

Wine Bottle Tote –  You can find one here.

Other Tips:

  • Not sure what the Corkage Fee is? Just call. They might not even allow you to BYO wine. Nothing is worse than showing up with your favorite bottle for a special occasion only to learn that you can’t do it.
  • If you are with a group, you may get the Corkage Fee waived if you buy a bottle from their list for every bottle you bring.
  • If the restaurant has a sommelier, it’s polite to offer a taste. {We’ve offered our server a taste the last time we brought in a bottle. Some may not be allowed to try, but they will be appreciative of the gesture.}
  • Order an apéritif or a glass of bubbly before your meal. Then have the server pour your wine to enjoy with your meal. It’s a nice gesture to buy at least one beverage from the restaurant. Or if you perfer, order a digestif after the meal. {You just might even get your Corkage Fee waived then, too.}

We, personally, have only brought our own wine in to restaurants on a couple of occasions; and it was truly just to celebrate. Each time we called first to inquire about corkage. When in search for restaurants online that offer corkage, or even half-priced bottle of wine nights, don’t expect to find accurate lists. We actually considered creating a list ourselves and then realized how difficult that would be to maintain accurately. Pick a restaurant first, then call. It’s your best bet.

And whatever you do, remember it’s out of sheer courtesy that restaurants offer the option to bring your own wine. You are merely paying a convenience charge for the service. Be respectful and express your gratitude. Commit a Corkage Faux Pas, and you just might ruin it for the rest of us.

Have your brought your own wine into a restaurant?

If so, was it for a special occasion?

What wine did you bring?

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10 responses »

  1. I worked in a restaurant that charged $2.50 a person for a corkage fee (but no more than $10 if in a group) and people would get so upset that we charged them. I don’t think that is unreasonable to pay if you are not purchasing a bottle in house. Hey, I was still the one washing and shining the glasses and opening the bottle and pouring the glasses!

  2. The last time I was at Cravings in Woodbury they didn’t even charge a corkage fee. We usually bring a really nice $40+ bottle when we go. The owner knows his wine and I wouldn’t want to insult him. They do have a great wine list.

    On a side note, the best purses will hold a bottle of wine. And the insulated wine holder is a must.

    • I just love the chicken lasagne there! The owner waited on us while we were there, too, and I loved hearing him talk about wine. I had no idea there was no corkage, though. And that’s funny – whenever I am looking at a new purse, I think, “Can I fit a wine bottle in here?” That’s second nature now, so I didn’t even think of mentioning it. Good one!

  3. Pingback: Santorini Taverna – Eden Prairie « Season It Already!

  4. Pingback: Saga Hill Cooking Class – Summer 2012 « Season It Already!

  5. Pingback: San Sebastian Winery | Season It Already!

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