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Dear Dr. Vinny,
Is it proper etiquette to bring a magnum to a nice restaurant? A group of six of us were having dinner at this nice establishment to celebrate a birthday. We called ahead to find out what the corkage fee was. Their policy was a small fee plus a bottle from their menu.
—Rosie, Scottsdale, Ariz.
When it comes to bringing your own bottle to restaurants, I think it’s very good etiquette to call ahead and confirm the corkage policy, no matter what size bottle you’re bringing. Keep in mind that BYOB is not legal everywhere, and even if it is, it’s up to each restaurant to determine its own policy. Rudeness alert: it’s in very poor form to bring a bottle that’s already on the restaurant’s wine list. I don’t mind when a small fee is charged (or you’re asked to buy a bottle off of the list) for this service. Think of it this way: not only is the restaurant losing a potential sale of a bottle of wine, but you’re also borrowing the glassware. Even if it’s not their express policy, I often supplement my own bottle with a bottle from their list, or at least with a glass of something they sell.
If the bottle you’re thinking about bringing is a magnum, I think it’s important that you be clear about that when you call to ask, so you aren’t giving the impression that you’re trying to take advantage of the corkage policy, and so you don’t get any side eye when you bring the bottle in. I wouldn’t be surprised if some restaurants treat it as two bottles—since it is the equivalent by volume. I find that if you’re very polite when bringing in your own wines, not only do things go smoothly, but sometimes the corkage fee may even be waived. Don’t forget to offer a taste to the sommelier or server.
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