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Corkage Etiquette

Updated February 15, 2019

Corkage is the fee that is charged by a restaurant when you bring your own bottle of wine. Charges can be anywhere from £4 to £16, though the fee may be waived if you order a second bottle from the wine list. This practice is not allowed in many restaurants; call in advance before you arrive. There is a specific protocol for corkage and it is important to follow it closely.

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Choose the Wine Carefully

Never bring a bottle of wine that appears on the restaurant's wine list. Some restaurants will even refuse to open the bottle. Call ahead, or check online to see if the restaurant's website includes a wine list. If you are going to a restaurant that specialises in wine, it may be best not to bring your own bottle. A very special or rare bottle will be the only acceptable wine to bring to most restaurants; a cheap discount bottle of wine from the grocery store should not be brought to restaurants.

The Sommelier

A sommelier is the wine expert at the restaurant. He or she has extensive knowledge about wine and is in charge of opening and pouring every bottle served at the restaurant. If you are at a high-end restaurant, chances are that you will be dealing with a sommelier. Otherwise, your waiter will most likely be opening your wine.

Table Etiquette

Place the bottle of wine on the table when you arrive to give the waiter a heads-up. He may need to inform the sommelier that corkage services are needed. Ask for the wine list, and double-check that your wine is not listed. The sommelier will open the wine and decant it if you wish. After the wine has been poured, it is proper etiquette to offer the sommelier a taste, especially if it is a rare bottle. Following this etiquette will sometimes get your corkage fee reduced, or even waived.

Rules & Regulations

Many restaurants do not allow patrons to bring their own bottle of wine. In some states or counties, it is not legal to do so. It is typical for a restaurant to allow you to bring only two bottles of wine; after that you should order from the wine list. For parties of six or more, call ahead to see if the restaurant has a policy regarding bringing more than one bottle of wine. Also, ask to see if there is a reduced corkage fee for more than one bottle.

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About the Author

Cate Rushton has been a freelance writer since 1999, specializing in wildlife and outdoor activities. Her published works also cover relationships, gardening and travel on various websites. Rushton holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Utah.

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