Dear Waiter

Once in a while I like to bring a bottle of wine that I saved for a special occasion with me to a nice restaurant. I always do the requisite things: Check to see if the restaurant allows this, check the price of corkage, and tip generously for wine service. One thing that I’ve always been confused about is whether or not I should offer my waiter a taste of the wine. I actually always do offer a taste since I think it’s the polite thing to do and I really don’t mind sharing a taste, but I’ve been met with a range of responses:

– Thanking me and pouring themselves a sip
– Thanking me and declining politely
– Declining and giving me the impression that was rude to offer up
– Pretending they didn’t hear me
– Thanking me and pouring themselves a full 4 oz pour (this really happened once with a bottle of Silver Oak)

What is the proper thing to do when you bring your own bottle? Offer a taste or not?


Dear Ron:

You do not have to offer a taste, but it’s a very cool thing to do. It is NEVER rude to offer the server a sip. Because of thoughtful customers like yourself, I’ve tasted many wines I couldn’t otherwise afford to sample.

A server’s proper reaction to your request should be:

– Thank you and pour themselves a sip – not a four ounce pour!
-. Thank you but decline politely.

Since you brought up the topic of bringing your own bottle to a restaurant, I’d like to go expand this topic further and go over some…..

Ground Rules for BYOB!

1. If the restaurant serves wine and you bring your own bottle, you will be charged a corking fee. That fee is usually equal to price of the cheapest bottle of wine the restaurant sells.

2. It is considered bad form to bring in a bottle of wine the restaurant already sells.

3. If you have any concerns about bringing your own bottle of wine to a restaurant, avoid trouble. Call the establishment ahead of time.

4. If you bring your own bottle of wine but purchase a bottle of equal or greater value, some restaurants, but certainly not all, might let you slide on the corking fee.

5. Please refrain from opening your own bottle. All waiters should have corkscrews. Besides, we can open a bottle better and faster than you. We’re experts.

6. Waiters will not dribble a bit of your BYOB wine into a glass and let you swirl and sniff it. The wine tasting liturgy is only for people buying wine in the restaurant. You already bought the wine. If it’s bad you’re screwed.

7. If the wine needs decanting, the wait staff is required to provide that service.

8. If the wine needs to be put on ice, the wait staff is required to provide that service.

9. It is polite to offer the server a taste but it is not required.

10. No, a waiter won’t run to the liquor store to buy you a bottle of wine.

11. Don’t throw a hissy fit over the glasses a restaurant uses. If you must use a Riedel glass, bring your own! I’ve seen it done.

Any other BYOB service suggestions? Complaints? Server gripes? Leave ‘em in the comments section.

Share This

Share This

Share this post with your friends!