We had “Dine Out” Vancouver up here the last couple of weeks, and took advantage of it by going to Cibo Trattoria for dinner. It is a nice Italian restaurant, and the meal was very good.

So was the wine – because I brought my own, from my cellar! A 2005 Barbaresco by Prunotto that was in fabulous shape. And with corkage only $25, I saved myself a whack of money (good, but young, Barbarescos were over $100 on the wine list!).

That got me to thinking…what is the best kind of wine to bring to a restaurant?

Well, I think there are two kinds of answers – one if you have a wine cellar, and one if you don’t (but want to bring a bottle anyway to save money, celebrate, etc).

Let’s start with the second one first. How do you decide what – or, in fact, if – to bring if you don’t have a wine cellar?

Well, first step is look at the wine list for the restaurant on line, and check out not just the prices of the bottles, but of the wines by the glass as well. At most nice restaurants, the bottles of wine usually start at $40…and given there is at least 100% markup, that means you are getting a $15 – $20 wine for that price. As for wines by the glass, well, unfortunately $12 and up is pretty standard (for a 4 ounce pour). Finally, call and ask what the corkage charge is – it can range from $15 to $35.

Then, do the math!

For cheaper wine, it may not make sense i.e. if you want to bring a $15 wine, you are probably not going to save any money. And, frankly, it is kind of an insult to the restaurant! But if you want to bring something special to celebrate…that may be different! A $40 or $50 bottle, plus corkage, I still about $65 – $75. Not cheap, but probably less than on the list (if you can find it there at all).

And you get to choose a wine you (hopefully) know about and like! Pick a wine – probably red so you don’t have to worry about keeping it cold – that drinks well young. Good prospects are California Cabernets or Australian Shiraz…for $50 you can find some amazing wines out there!

If you have a cellar, the decision should be a no brainer! Any wine you bring will probably be more mature than what is on the wine list, and way cheaper, even with the corkage fee, for a couple of reasons.

First, very few restaurants have aged wine on their list. For mostly cost reasons (i.e. avoiding the overhead of keeping wines without selling them), they put the most recent vintages on the list and hope people will buy them, even if they are not really drinking all that well.

And they do have older vintages, you will pay for it! Take a look at some older Bordeaux for example…$200+ is pretty standard for anything more than 5 – 10 years old! I expect that is what my Barbaresco would have cost if it had been on the list at Cibo.

Also, don’t worry about your wine needing decanting! They will do it for you as part of the corkage fee. All you have to care about there is getting it to the restaurant without shaking it up too much.

One last piece of advice…if you do bring a wine, feel free to offer a taste to the waiter/sommelier. They are wine lovers and often appreciate the opportunity to taste a great wine.

So there you go…a long answer to a short question about what kind of wine to bring to a restaurant!




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