Be your own sommelier

BYOW can offer tremendous value to the savvy restaurant patron.

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From the June 2014 issue of the magazine.

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Thousands of restaurants across Canada offer a “bring your own wine” (BYOW) option but only a select few advertise it. It’s no wonder. BYOW can offer tremendous value to the savvy restaurant patron.

As a rule of thumb, don’t bring cheap wine to a BYOW establishment. Instead, consider a bottle that sells for at least $25 at your local liquor store. That same vintage will typically cost you north of $50 at a restaurant, making the $10 to $45 corkage fee justifiable, says Luiz Henrique, president of the online directory BYOW.com.

Not only can BYOW save you money, it can add a personal touch. “If it’s a celebration I put a little effort into finding the right wine at the liquor store,” said Orangeville, Ont.-based writer and BYOW enthusiast Tony Reynolds. He also suggests bringing a wine that you’ve had before and know you’ll enjoy. “How could it be a bad experience if you’re eating good food and drinking good wine?”

Restaurants licensed for BYOW set their own corkage fees, so call before you buy. At $30 or more your corkage fee should include a decanter, ice bucket (if necessary) and appropriate glassware. Be discreet with your bottle upon entering, give the bottle to your waiter and don’t forget to include the pour service into your tip.

BYOW etiquette (courtesy of BYOW.com)

  •  Try not to bring wine that’s on the restaurant’s own list.
  • When you call for reservations, ask about any BYOW rules. Some establishments, for instance, limit the time or days when the service is offered.
  • Ask for the corkage fee. You don’t want to be taken by surprise. The fee should match the service offered. If the restaurant brings an ice bucket or decanter plus appropriate glasses and such, expect to pay a reasonable fee…with tip!
  • Make sure the restaurant has appropriate glasses for any fine wine you choose to bring and a decanter or ice bucket if necessary.
  • Carry your wine in a bag. You don’t have to get fancy. Any bag is fine but many restaurants will frown on naked bottles being carried unceremoniously by their necks.
  • Find out if the sommelier is available ahead of time to talk about what wine goes with the special of the day, or to get menu suggestions to go with the wine you want to bring.
  • Drink responsibly. You do not have to finish the wine you bring. In Ontario, the restaurant will replace the cork – pushed all the way in – and you can take the wine home. Incidentally, a cork must be used to stopper screw cap wines as well. Let the restaurant take care of this for you and use the bag you brought to take your wine home.
  • You can bring more than one bottle if you’d like to match your wines with different courses but do remember most restaurants charge a fee per bottle you bring. The more bottles you bring, the more you pay for corkage.
Province BYOW offered BYOW Restaurant List
B.C. Yes BC Corkage Fees
Alberta Yes Urbanspoon: Best Alberta BYOW restaurants
Saskatchewan Yes Urbanspoon: Saskatchewan BYOW restaurants
Manitoba Yes Urbanspoon: Manitoba restaurants 
Ontario Yes BYOW.com
Quebec Yes Urbanspoon: Best Quebec BYOB restaurants
Newfoundland and Labrador No N/A
Nova Scotia Yes Bring My Wine Nova Scotia
New Brunswick Yes Urbanspoon: New Brunswick BYOB restaurants
P.E.I. No N/A
NWT Yes Urbanspoon: Northwest Territories BYOB restaurants

 

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