Understanding Restaurant Corkage Policies

Picture this dilemma. You have just purchased a new bottle of wine, and your wine consultant provided a list of recommended pairings. After some thought, you settle on the perfect dish to pair with your new wine.

The only problem? The dish is served at one of your favorite restaurants…and they do not carry your wine! Do not worry: thanks to restaurant wine bottle corkage policies, you can bring in your prized bottle and enjoy it alongside perfectly complimentary fare.

What is a corkage fee?

A corkage fee is a rate that customers pay when they bring in a bottle of wine that they purchased outside of the restaurant. The charge typically covers the server opening the bottle, pouring the traditional service tasting, and pouring for each guest at the table. Depending on the restaurant and the wine, a corkage fee may also include decanting the wine.

Why do restaurants charge a corkage fee?

Restaurants charge a corkage fee to offset the cost that is lost by the customer not purchasing a bottle from the restaurant’s wine list. It also offsets the cost of washing wine glasses and decanters. Additionally, it helps compensate the server, who is opening the bottle and pouring the wine for guests.

Is it rude to bring an outside wine to a restaurant?

Corkage is common practice in the restaurant industry. However, it can be considered uncouth if the restaurant has a wine retail section. It can also be considered a slight if you bring in the same wine that the restaurant carries.

If you are concerned about the restaurant not having a corkage policy, call ahead. They will be happy to explain their rates and policies. In general, most restaurants will be happy to accommodate your wine with their meal!

How much is a corkage fee?

Corkage fees typically range from $20 to $40. Some restaurants (such as Thomas Keller’s French Laundry) charge $150 for a corkage fee; however, this is rare. San Diego restaurants such as Baci Ristorante charge $30 per bottle.

Some restaurants charge per person who consumes the wine, but this is a less common policy. Additionally, some restaurants may have a cap on how many bottles a party can bring in. This, like all wine corkage policies, is subject to the restaurant. In general, you will find restaurants to be accommodating and to have reasonable pricing… and servers are usually excited to learn about this special wine you have decided to enjoy with your dinner.

Corkage fee etiquette

There are no steadfast rules when it comes to corkage. However, there are some general policies that most restaurants follow. Adhere to these corkage fee etiquette tips to ensure your corkage experience at a restaurant is enjoyable.

  • Research your pairings ahead of time, and make sure that the restaurant menu will match your selected wine. This will ensure a perfect pairing (and also get you excited for your meal!).
  • Know how much the wine needs to breathe or decant. In many cases, you may want the server to open the wine as soon as you are seated. (Your Quigley Fine Wines expert will happily supply you with this information.)
  • Do not bring in a bottle that the restaurant carries.
  • Consider offering your server a small taste of the wine. He or she will be very grateful to try a wine that is not on the restaurant’s wine list… and since wine is all about good company, socializing, and sharing experiences, this keeps with the core values of the wine tradition.
  • Rely on Quigley Fine Wines experts to provide you with the temperature at which you should serve the wine, and provide your server with this information. Servers will typically know of the accepted serving temperatures, but they may not know the specifics of a vintage or varietal like your Quigley Fine Wines consultant does.
  • Tip your server on the corkage fee.
  • Enjoy!

Do you need help selecting the perfect bottle of wine for your next dining experience or event? Quigley Fine Wines can help! Contact us for a consultation; our friendly wine consultants are here to help guide you through the selection process.