Wine Word of the Week: Corkage



By Kori ~ February 14th, 2012.

This week’s Wine Word of the Week is corkage.

Official definition from Jancis Robinson’s The Oxford Companion to Wine:
Corkage is the charge customarily levied in a restaurant for each bottle of wine brought in and consumed on the premises rather than bought from the restaurant’s own selection. The term is derived from the fact that the number of corks pulled represents the number of bottles consumed. There is considerable variation in the amount charged, and the grace with which the practice is accepted.

Layman’s terms from Kori:
Corkage is the fee charged by a restaurant when a patron brings in their own bottle to consume instead of ordering off of the restaurant’s wine list. Whether the practice is allowed and if so, the amount charged, varies from restaurant to restaurant. Be sure to call ahead before bringing a bottle to a restaurant to verify their policies. Even for restaurants that allow patrons to bring their own wine, only wines that are not already on the restaurant’s wine list will be allowed.

Happy Valentine’s Day!


Filed under: Wine Word of the Week

Reader's Comments

  1. Troy | February 14th, 2012 at 9:02 am

    I always call ahead now to ask what the corkage is before I go to a restaurant for the first time. I’ve been keeping a list of restaurants and corkage fees and find that most of them are reasonable (anywhere from free to $20) but I’ve found a few (mainly those fancy pants type restaurants) that are rediculously high. I flat out refuse to bring wine to a restaurant that has a >$20 corkage fee. And often I don’t even order wine from such restauants if I go there, I just get beer. I understand the concept of corkage, but sometimes I feel like a restaurant is just being stingy/greedy when it comes to opening a wine brought in by a customer and I often don’t return to such restaurants that make me feel that way.

    One restaurant my wife’s grandfather went to saw the bottles of wine he brought, and seeing that they were very nice wines they tried to charge him a $50/bottle fee. He refused to pay it. I don’t know what the restaurants actual corkage was, but I know it wasn’t normally $50, and that he never went there again. The highest I’ve seen anywhere was $75 at the French Laundry in California. My favorite restaurant in Bothell doesn’t charge a corkage fee for Woodinville wines, so I go there often considering that Woodinville comprises about half of my cellar.

  2. Kori | February 14th, 2012 at 11:46 am

    Troy,
    Great idea to keep a list of restaurants and their corkage fees for future reference. You make some great points. I, too, struggle with the corkage fees at some places. Thanks for mentioning the Bothell restaurant that doesn’t charge a corkage fee for Woodinville wines. I love the fact that some restaurants are now waiving corkage fees for “local” wines. It’s great when restaurants and wineries can work together to promote the idea of eating, drinking, and shopping local. Cheers!

  3. Sunshine Mountain Vineyard | February 14th, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    Stumbled upon your blog while looking for wines as gifts for Valentine’s Day. Great informational blog you got here! But wouldn’t you just want to choose from the wine selection of the restaurant rather than bringing one in? Just saying.

  4. Kori | February 15th, 2012 at 10:39 am

    SMV,
    Glad to have you here. Thanks for the kind words about our blog. The “Wine Word of the Week” series is a weekly feature where we give an explanation of wine words to enhance our readers’ wine vocabulary. Regarding corkage, though, we usually do order off of the wine list at restaurants. But there are times, special occasions or when a restaurant has a weak wine list, when we do bring a bottle of our own to enjoy. Cheers!

  5. Terry | February 15th, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    Here’s an interesting corkage story. Last night we took the in-laws out for valentines dinner to a restaurant of their choice that shall remain nameless (a national chain specializing in seafood should say enough.) Of course we brought a wine that we new we would like from our modest cellar for this special occasion as Kori points out. The waitress was very young and did not understand the concept of someone bringing wine with them. We asked for glasses thinking that would be enough of a signal that it was time for her to open the wine. Glasses were brought with nothing said. We asked about opening the bottle and were given an opener. Wow. I had never seen anything like this! I imagine our state has a law about not opening your own bottle in a restaurant, whether you brought it or not. So, giving up and not wanting to embarrass the inexperienced waitress, I opened and enjoyed our own bottle. No fee, thankfully! Otherwise, I don’t mind paying a modest corkage fee. I will add that I wish it was the same at golf courses. Some courses are really aggressive with telling you to remove beer from coolers and golf bags if you bring your own beer.

  6. Terry | February 15th, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    After thinking about SMV’s comment, I was thinking about how a restaurant could respond to someone bringing their own bottle. If someone bringing their own does not sometimes say enough about a restaurant’s lack of depth or other issue with the wine list — let me make a few up like no rhone grapes, no rhone blends, no rhone whites — get it now?? So, a restauranteur I would think could ask for feedback from the bottle bringer on what their list might be lacking and take something from the experience, sometimes. Want to sell more wine, add more depth. Too many Bordeaux wines? Not enough Washington wines? Something is bound to be learned more often than not. And the added bonus is the restaurant actually looked to see if there was anything they could improve, rather than being offended like most may do. This would bring me back! I know chefs are all that with pairing their wine tastes with the food they serve, then there’s the real world.

  7. Kori | February 17th, 2012 at 10:24 am

    Terry,
    Thanks for sharing your Valentine’s dinner story. Wow, sounds like that restaurant could definitely use some wine education. Glad you were finally able to enjoy the wine you brought. And, great point about restaurants using it as an opportunity to get feedback from customers rather than being offended. Cheers!

  8. Cj | February 18th, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    We just had a nightmare situation regarding corkage at a Prescott restaurant named The Rose. We have been there several times. My husband called to make reservations for our birthdays / anniversary dinner with family. The owner argued with my husband that corkage was illegal in Az although we have done it in many fine restaurants in Az. We said no problem. We arrived to dine and we insulted and basically kicked out by the owner Billie Jo. Included in her rude behavior she also shoulder bumped my husband aggressively. Disgusting behavior when most restaurants are closing down. Ps. All her tables were empty at 730 pm.

  9. Kori | February 18th, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    Cj,
    My goodness. What an unfortunate situation. Sounds like someone needs a refresher course in customer service. Hope your next dinner out is much better. Cheers!

  10. Maggie | September 5th, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    Corkage is ILLEGAL in Arizona in establishments WITH a liquor license. If a licensed premises were to allow you to bring in your own alcohol, they would lose their license. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. The only places where you can bring your own bottle are those who do not serve alcohol of any kind (without a license), and, it is limited to six ounces of wine per person in your party. Go to the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control’s website at http://www.azliquor.gov for more information on AZ law.

  11. Kori | September 6th, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    Maggie,
    Thanks for sharing the information about Arizona law. The laws do vary from state to state, so each person should make sure they know what they are for their home state. Here in Washington State, corkage is allowed. Cheers!

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