Basics: A Wine Lover's Guide to BYO Etiquette | Wine Enthusiast
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A Wine Lover’s Guide to BYO Etiquette

The moment has finally arrived. It’s time to drink a treasured bottle of wine you’ve been saving, so you bring it to your favorite restaurant to have it opened and poured by a sommelier and sip with an amazing meal. 

“Our guests don’t often bring their own wine to The Anvil,” says Gerrit French, director of operations at The Anvil Pub and Grill, in Birmingham, Alabama. “But when they do it’s usually something special from their collection or maybe a wine that’s the guest of honor’s favorite. We always encourage this and are happy they’ve chosen our restaurant to celebrate the occasion.”

Before you arrive, however, there are important things to consider when you take a bottle to a restaurant with a bring-your-own (BYO) policy. Here, restaurant professionals share their tips for BYO etiquette. 

Do Your Homework

Don’t arrive at the restaurant with that special bottle of wine unless you are certain that BYO is permitted. 

“Basic etiquette for BYO is guests should tell the restaurant they’re bringing wine and find out their policies ahead of time,” says Chef Galen Zamarra, who previously owned Mas Farmhouse in New York City. 

Be sure that the wine you bring isn’t already on the list, too.

“Check the establishment’s wine list and make sure they don’t sell the wine you’re bringing as most will not allow this,” says Matthew Perkins, manager and beverage director at Magnolia’s Mill in Purcellville, Virginia. “If they do sell wine, bring your own only if it’s a special occasion or if the wine is particularly special to you and or your guests. Mention that you are bringing your own wine when you make your reservation.”

Arrive Prepared

If bringing multiple bottles of wine, guests should come prepared with the order in which they want to consume these bottles or give full control to our team of sommeliers to advise based on their food pairings,” says Lauren Hoey, lead sommelier at Hawksmoor in New York City.

“Additionally, it’s important to bring the wines at their appropriate temperatures or close to it so that way we can be ready to serve the wine at its proper temperature,” she says. Hoey also suggests guests bring a back-up bottle in case the special wine turns out to be corked. 

Understand Corkage Fees

Corkage fees for BYO bottles are fairly standard at restaurants that serve wine. 

“Most restaurants charge a corkage fee to open the wine,” says Perkins. “Ours is $18–this fee is to cover lost revenue for not selling wine from the restaurant to the guest.”

Some restaurants offer BYO nights when corkage fees are waived or are significantly reduced. For instance, at The Leopard at des Artiste in New York City, there is no corkage fee on Sunday nights. 

At Hawksmoor, the typical $35 corkage fee is reduced to $10 on Monday evenings, and there’s “no limitation on number of bottles of size of the bottles brought in,” says Hoey. “Or, as we like to say ‘For maximum value bring a Nebuchadnezzar of Champagne or a Balthazar of Burgundy.’ ”  

Consider the Community

While the team at Leopard at des Artistes is happy to open any bottle that guests bring to accompany their meal, Gianfranco Sorrentino, the restaurant’s owner, notes that BYO bottles can also engage the community. 

“We are hopeful that people will buy their wines at local liquor stores in the area, so it is a win-win situation for everyone—the diner, the liquor store, and our restaurant,” says Sorrentino.

Tip. Every Time.

You should always plan to tip for your BYO experience.

“Minimally, tip on the corkage fee,” says Rick Camac, dean of Restaurant & Hospitality Management at the Institute of Culinary Education. “But it’s actually more reasonable to tip on what it would cost approximately at the restaurant, as the server and/or sommelier is still doing the exact same job. That’s still quite a lot less than buying the bottle at the venue.”

Zamarra agrees. “If you bring your own wine, it is just as much work for them, and they need to be compensated for it. If you bring expensive old wines that require decanting and a lot of work from a high-level somm, tip extra still.” 

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