Is it OK to bring a bottle of rosé to dinner at a restaurant?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

Is it OK to bring a bottle of rosé to dinner at a restaurant?

—Ben, Tennessee

Dear Ben,

When a restaurant allows customers to bring their own bottle of wine, that service is called corkage, and it usually comes with a fee (although there are some restaurants that have gratis BYO policies, especially among those that don’t have a license to sell alcohol). Start by making sure they allow corkage (laws vary from state to state)—checking their website is a good first step, but I like to call ahead and make arrangements with the staff. That way, the staff is expecting me to bring wine and there’s no confusion about why a customer arrived with their own bottles.

It’s very gracious of a restaurant to offer a corkage policy, so be sure to consider that when it comes to tipping your server. It’s also considered good etiquette to buy a glass of wine or a bottle off of their list as well. And I always offer my server and/or sommelier a taste or small glass of the wine that I brought as a token of appreciation.

I also always check to make sure that the special bottle of wine I am bringing is not already on the restaurant’s list; some corkage policies expressly forbid bringing a wine that is already available at the restaurant, and it’s definitely an unwritten rule of corkage etiquette even where it’s not a formal rule. Whether or not it’s OK to bring a bottle of rosé depends on the context: Is it a special, high-end bottle, or is it a cheap bottle off the grocery story shelf? If it’s a small restaurant with a small wine list and they don’t have any rosés on their list, that’s probably OK. But if they have equivalent offerings, you should consider buying from the list instead of bringing your own bottle.

Remember, corkage is a courtesy that the restaurant is offering, and considering how much restaurants have been struggling during the pandemic, I recommend being gracious about bringing your own wine, and tipping generously.

—Dr. Vinny

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