Monday, April 15, 2019

Proper Etiquette For Taking Your Own Wine Into a Restaurant

This is a piece written as a reaction to Matt Walls' piece on about the tired old subject of corkage fees.

Just what is the etiquette for bringing your own bottle of wine into a restaurant, you self-entitled twerp? Oh, I don’t know. You may as well ask, what is the standard etiquette for bringing my own semen to a Tupperware party? It’s about the same situation. There is no answer. But you can certainly expect some disgusted looks from the help. What did you think was going to happen? People were going to ask for a small taste?

Let’s say you’re determined to take that highly overrated wine to dinner. It is overrated, you know. You’re the kind of idiot who complains about the high prices on wine lists, but then goes out and spends several hundred dollars on an overrated wine because some wine critic everyone knows is on the take gave it 99 points. You think you’re saving money by bringing in your own overpriced trophy wine, that’s how smart and savvy you are. Hey, I know, next time you go to the movies, take your own projector! That’ll save you a fortune.

Sure, you have an impressive wine cellar. Good for you. It’s at home, right? So here’s what you do. Eat at home, Wineboy. Listen, I have pedigreed dogs, champions of their breed, but I don’t take one when I go out for Korean BBQ. What sense does that make? It’s like taking a chicken hawk to a cockfight. What are you thinking? Kinda rude, don’t you think? There’s gonna be dead chickens, anyway. You’re just being stupid.

But if, after all that, you decide to take your own bottle to a restaurant, what can you expect? Pretty much what you deserve—condescenscion and ridicule. Suck it up and take it like a man. Listen, these are people trying to make a living working in a goddam restaurant. They don’t care that you brought in some dusty old Bordeaux out of your amazing wine cellar. They already hate you, and now you want them to admire your taste in wine? Sure. I know, offer them a taste, that should make them suddenly smitten with your charm! Only offering them a taste of your ’59 Margaux is like offering caviar to a duck. And then expecting that nothing will be on the bill. Get over yourself.

Oh, everyone is going to tell you it’s fine to bring your own wine, that the restaurant is just happy to have your business. And, like whatever that is in your Tupperware, you’ll probably swallow it. I don’t know what you do for a living, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that a customer trying to save money on your services isn’t exactly your favorite. I mean, you don’t take your own oil to Jiffy Lube, do you? Knowing you, you probably do. You probably also try to buy Girl Scout cookies with Bitcoin and ask for exact change. Dick. You’re sneaking hot dogs into baseball games and using their mustard and relish for free, without even calling ahead to ask if they have a weenie fee. You’re insufferable, you know that?

It’s fine. I don’t care. Take your own wine the next time you go out to dinner. Just don’t act like you’re doing the restaurant a favor. That’s obnoxious. And the least you can do is leave a generous tip, maybe some of that money you stole from the Girl Scout.


Joff Day said...

LMAO - as usual!

Mark Rader said...


cellarguy said...

Maybe if the restaurants did not try to undress you on the bottle of wine and charged a reasonable markup on food things would be more pleasant for everyone involved. The historic practice of cost shifting is stupid. I will buy off the list if the prices are not 3x retail. If this is the attitude of the restaurant, fine, I WILL eat at home. Now you have zero business and a high priced wine list to stare at. Good luck.

Vin de Terre said...

If only they'd bring a bottle of the new Blue Nun 24K Gold Edition. I'd decant it carefully to make sure all the solids remained in the bottle.

Smiling Billie said...

Great one Ron, couldn't agree more

Tom In Real Life said...

If you bring wine to a restaurant you are either a pretentious douchebag, a cheap-ass, or a clueless bastard. There is NO forth choice.

Divine Miss M said...

Actually, TominRealLife, there is another choice (at least here in Napa Valley). You could be a local vintner bringing along a wine for your guests to taste AND leaving a healthy tip to acknowledge the graciousness of the restaurant in granting you permission to do so. Happy to pay corkage if charged.

stacie said...

While agreeing with Ron in principle, there are some mid-level restaurants with crappy wine lists. You know the ones. Yet their food/ambiance/service is good. Perhaps they just allow the distributor to write their list with close-outs or the just don't care -- maybe they have a better beer list, I don't know. In this case, bringing a bottle that is better than what's offered (generally at a 2-3X markup) and paying the $25-$30 corkage (which is a helluva lot more than the restaurant paid for their wine bottle on the list) feels okay. The restaurant isn't wine centric, is making $25-$30 while not having to invest in or stock that inventory -- plus we leave a generous tip. I dunno, Ron. In this case it seems like a win-win.

SimoneVecchio said...

I’m with cellarguy and stacie on this one. The rest of you, stop assuming that anyone “carrying in” is doing so for pretentious or self aggrandizing reasons. And stop assuming that every wine list should be “respected” like scripture.

Restaurants and wine waiters (oops, was I supposed to genuflect and use the word.”somm”) should collect the corkage and smile.

Who knows, maybe if you are courteous and interested, you might taste something interesting or extraordinary.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hey Common Taters,
All the arguments folks are making here were part of the article Matt Walls wrote for Tim Atkin that I was playing off of here. When I first started blogging, back before computers, corkage fees were one of the hot topics. Natural wine hadn't been invented yet. The corkage fee topic died off, but Matt brought it back. Ill-advisedly, I think. I just wanted to write a "funny" take on the topic. Maybe not so much funny as making the point that everyone thinks they're right about corkage fees. I find it a tiresome subject.

I waited on hundreds of folks who brought their own bottles, and they all had their reasons. If I own the restaurant, I get to decide how I deal with that. Smart restaurants deal with it discretely and without cold, hard, fast rules. I charged corkage when I felt the customer was bringing in an average wine in order to avoid paying for a bottle off the list. In 19 years, I may have charged corkage 10 or 20 times. Again, great restaurants understand discretion.

Some states don't allow you to bring wine in under any circumstances. Moving there brings wine corkage clarity.

Meanwhile, thanks for reading and commenting. I'm enjoying writing shorter, more random, pieces, and I hope I don't have to retire again for the fifth time.

stacie said...

Retiring is not an option for you -- your fans will not be able to be consoled. We need you in these troubling times.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

That's very kind. As I've said often, I do this for myself, for my own fulfillment as a frustrated comedy writer, and don't really believe anything I do or say here has any impact on the wine business; nor is that my aim.

But if I keep this up, it's mostly because of the generosity and thoughtfulness of common taters like you. That, and the joy of rattling cages.

Bob Rossi said...

"If you bring wine to a restaurant you are either a pretentious douchebag, a cheap-ass, or a clueless bastard. There is NO forth choice."
The fourth choice, at least where I live, is that you like wine, and like a restaurant that doesn't serve wine., but you want to eat there and have wine with your meal. Here, you can't bring wine if the restaurant has a liquor license, but can if they don't and allow you to bring it. There are a couple of good restaurants that don't serve liquor for various reasons, but you can bring your own. And there is no corkage fee (it may be that it's not permitted).
And Ron, another very enjoyable post (although I don't think I saw Matt's piece). Keep up the good work.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

There's a link to Matt's piece in the intro. As much as I like Matt's work, this was rather lackluster. Not that I hit a home run every time. Far from it. But I was "inspired" to write this stupid diatribe. There is a strange sort of elitism and entitlement to many of the folks who bring wine into a restaurant. I know I'm guilty of it. And that sense of entitlement resonates in their reasoning and justifications for their actions. I think that's what sets me off.

I wonder, is there a restaurant with a fantastic, reasonably-priced wine list where one would be tempted to bring ones own food because theirs was lacking? Maybe ask if they had a forkage fee?

Charlie Olken said...

I'm with those who think that bringing wine into a restaurant is a privilege not be abused, not a right. And, if the place, to which I have gone for its food first, second and third, has a reasonable list, then I like to bring a worthy bottle and purchase one in addition.

But there are so many restaurants that either have pretentious, overpriced lists that I feel no responsibility to buy their wine and only go there for the food. Restaurants can charge corkage at whatever level they want, or not at all, and I can go there, not go there, bring my own wine or not, and neither I nor they should feel compelled to change.

Let's not get to free corkage for all. Let's leave that to Medicare.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Puff Daddy!
Always a special occasion when you show up here. You and I are in complete agreement, which makes me wildly nervous.

Medicare free for all only if you bring your own Viagra to the free for all.

Hope you're well, Charlie, and enjoying your semi-retirement. I assume, anyway, that you're living in a semi.