The “corkage” law in BC (which allows people to take their own wine into a restaurant and drink it for a fee, called the corkage) is over a year old now, but there was an article in the paper the other day talking about how few people use it.
That got me to thinking – why is that?
Restaurant wine prices in BC – like many other places on the planet – are ridiculous. It seems that 100% – 200% mark-up per bottle is pretty standard, with a number of higher end restaurants going even higher, to 250% or even 300%. That means a wine you can buy in the store for $20 is going to cost you at least $40 (if you are lucky), and up to $60!
Wine by the glass is, arguably, worse. It is hard to find a decent wine for less than $10 a glass, with many in the $15 a glass range. On top of that, you have to deal with variable pour levels (is that really 4 ounces?) and too many wines that have been left open and are in some kind of state of oxidation.
Yet – despite these problems – not many people go the corkage route!
One reason may be that they don’t know about it, as few restaurants up here advertise it. Another might be intimidation. Wine, by its nature, is scary to many people, and the thought of having a waiter give you that “look” when you hand him or her the wine may just be too much! Finally, some restaurants make their corkage policy either complicated (“the wine can’t be on our wine list”) or expensive ($35 a bottle or more), that the disincentive just becomes too high.
But I say – fight it!
If you have a cellar, what a great way to share a great old bottle (or two if you are with friends). There are too few restaurants with older vintages on their wine lists, and those that do charge an arm and a leg for them.
Even if you just have a few bottles sitting around at home, why not bring one? It is a probably a wine you like, so that avoids the risk of ordering something you don’t like, and having to pay for it.
But the biggest reason to go the corkage route is one that should appeal to the “shopper” in everyone – it can save you money!
Let’s say there are two of you having dinner, and you usually have two glasses each. By the glass, that is going to probably cost you north of $60. A bottle may well be more than that (unless you go for the cheapest selection on the list).
So why not just bring a bottle from home or go to a wine store and buy a bottle on your way to the restaurant? Grab your favourite bottle, or tell an expert how much money you want to spend, what style you like, and let him or her pick one out for you.,
I can just about guaranteed that you will enjoy the result.
My last experience is a perfect example. It was a “boy’s night out” and there were six of us at a fairly high end restaurant. While I like the restaurant, I also know that the wines start at $60 for the low end. So I brought two reds from my cellar for our dinner, neither of which was on their wine list. Given that they were very good wines with some age to them, comparable versions on the list would have been $100 each. Instead, we paid $70 – total. Not only did we enjoy them, but the bill was a lot smaller than it could have been!