How Much Should You Pay for a Corkage Fee?

Written by Scott Joseph on .

CorkscrewHow important is a corkage fee to you?

If you're not sure what a corkage fee is, then it probably doesn't matter much at all. Corkage fees are what a restaurant charges a guest who wishes to bring his or her own bottle of wine rather than order one off of the restaurant's wine list. Why would someone want to do that? Usually it's because the guest has a special bottle of wine he'd like to enjoy for, presumably, a special occasion. Sometimes, less frequently, a guest wants to bring a bottle from his own cellar as a way of saving costs.

The better question is why would a restaurant, which is in the business of selling food and drink, allow this?

Some don't. Many years ago I was on the phone with Paul Bocuse and I asked him what he says when guests ask if they can bring their own wines to his famous restaurant near Lyon, France. "I tell them, 'Fine, why don't you bring your own chairs, too,'" he replied through an interpreter.

Many restaurants grudgingly allow guests to bring a bottle of wine from home. And most that do will impose a corkage fee for the service of the wine, the use of the glassware and the cleaning. The fee may run anywhere from $15 to $20 typically, although as this article, which is curiously titled "The Etiquette of Navigating a Corkage Fee," states, some restaurants, such as Thomas Keller's French Laundry and Per Se, charge $150 for each bottle. That's presumably to discourage the practice, but given the price point of those two restaurants a guest might come out ahead with the corkage and a bottle brought from home.

It's possible that a restaurant would charge nothing for guests who bring a bottle with them, but those will usually be establishments without a license to sell alcohol.

If you'd like to take a bottle of wine to a restaurant, be sure to call ahead and ask about the restaurant's corkage policy. Never take a bottle that can be found on the restaurant's own wine list, and it's also bad form to take an inexpensive vintage (or nonvintage) just to save a few bucks.

What do you think? Have you ever taken a bottle of wine to a restaurant? What's the most you've paid for a corkage fee? And restaurateurs: What is your policy about outside wine? Or dining room chairs, for that matter? Leave a comment below.

Tacos, Tequila and Foolish Choices

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Blue Nectar

I did something foolish on my trip to Mexico City. Well, actually, I did several foolish things, it being a major birthday celebration/avoidance trip, but I'm only going to tell you about one of them. And for the record, I was not thrown out of that bar; I was ready to leave anyway.

Mexico City is full of street vendors selling all manner of foods. Many of them set up ramshackle tents and tables with crude seats for people to sit at. It all just looks like such a wonderful experience, and the food looked and smelled so tempting each time I passed one.

But those not assimilated to bacteria found in Mexico may eat at one of these street vendors only at their own peril. Even in established restaurants where it's safe to eat it's best to avoid foods not fully cooked — salads, for example — and even drinks with ice cubes. Montezuma, it turns out, was a very vengeful dude.

But there's another type of eatery that seems to fall between established restaurant and pop-up street vendor. They're technically brick and mortar businesses — they're under a roof, but they're typically wide open to the street. Their sanitation practices are a bit hinky.

The Psychology of the Wine Glass Hold

Written by Scott Joseph on .

wine glass holdThe way you hold your wine glass has a lot to say about you. At least that's what this photo collage from the Savory suggests. I'm not sure I buy into it, but I'll confess that I've used different methods shown here at different times. I guess I'll have to start keeping a diary about how I feel and how I'm holding the glass, along with the notes on the winetasting, and trying to hold a conversation with the other wine drinkers. Maybe I'll just put a straw in the bottle.

One thing the article doesn't mention is that one really shouldn't hold a wine glass by grasping the bowl, as the young man in the photo here is doing. Why? Because the heat from one's hand will warm the wine. Sometimes, however, a wine is overchilled and needs to come up to the proper temperature. In which case such a grasp is called for.

Placing it under your armpit is never acceptable.


Which type are you?

Helpful Hints for Ordering Wine

Written by Scott Joseph on .

This article from Business Insider is titled “A Top Sommelier Reveals 6 Things Not To Do  When Ordering Wine,” although I think a more positive title might be more effective. Maybe something like “Some Tips To Help You Enjoy Wine with Your Meal More Often.”

Still, there are some good points from John Ragan, wine director for Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group, for people who may still feel intimidated by wine lists and the attendant ritual of ordering a bottle. I think the best advice here is telling the sommelier how much you want to spend. I must say, however, that I’m surprised there are still people who think they’re supposed to sniff the cork. I thought we’d evolved beyond that.

What do you think? Are there elements of the wine ordering ritual that intimidate you? And you wine stewards: What other advice could you add to Ragan’s list?

Can't Finish That Bottle of Wine at the Restaurant? Take It Home with You

Written by Scott Joseph on .

This week on WMFE-FM, Scott chats with 90.7's Nicole Creston about a little known law that allows restaurant patrons to take unfinished bottles of wine home with them. You can hear the segment at 5:45 p.m. Friday; it's repeated Saturday mornings at 9:35. Or, click to listen to the podcast anytime.

Wine Doggy BagsIt’s been seven years since the Florida legislature enacted a law that allows patrons to take an unfinished bottle of wine home with them if they are unable to finish it at the restaurant. The law went into effect on July 1, 2005, and when I first wrote about it for the Orlando Sentinel, in September of that year, few people knew about it.

Few people know about it today.

But it’s a terrific little way to free yourself from the confines of the list of wines by the glass.

Here’s some of what I wrote back then that explained the law: