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3somm secrets: BYOW and Corkage fees

British Columbia, the land of paternalistic liquor laws, modernized its monopoly in 2012 to permit BYOW (Bring Your Own Wine): finally, we could take a bottle of wine to a licensed restaurant to enjoy with our meal. Legal in most other jurisdictions, BC restaurants could not previously permit the consumption of wine unless it was purchased from them. It is now up to each restaurant to decide whether to offer corkage, and what corkage fee to charge for this service of opening the wine, decanting it, providing the stemware and pouring. The wine must be unopened, not be UVin or homemade, and the unused portion can be resealed and taken home.

In BC, corkage fees currently range from $20 to $50 per bottle. While there is a temptation to look at the cost savings of bringing your own bottle versus paying the restaurant's price (which is two to three times cost), we find it is more to do with choice and quality. Since most restaurants do not invest heavily in wine cellars, their wines tend to be current vintages, and thus not ready to drink. Bringing your own wine allows you to choose one that suits your palate and budget, is properly aged and ready to drink. (See our Article STAARS: Disambiguating Wine regarding storage and aging.)

As for corkage etiquette, because it is a courtesy by the restaurant, find out in advance if it allows corkage and the amount charged. Either contact the restaurant, or use CorkageFee, a free app that originated in the USA and is growing in Canada. It allows you to find restaurants using filters for location, corkage prices, user ratings and tips. The corkage fees and ratings are verified by crowd sourcing.

On this, the eleventh anniversary of obtaining provincial permission, one wonders how the term "corkage" will survive the inevitable switch from corks to screwtops...

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