Corkage Etiquette

Old Oct 25, 17, 1:25 am
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Corkage Etiquette

I recently hosted a dinner at a restaurant owned by an acquaintance and I received corkage waivers for a table of 6. One of the guests brought 4 bottles of wine in different vintages with the intention of having a vertical tasting. Considering the corkage fees were waived for all 4 bottles I insisted we use the same glasses which caused a bit of an disagreement. However, I did not budge and it got somewhat uncomfortable. The thought of the table being filled with 24 wine glasses seemed ridiculous and ungrateful.

I would love to hear some of your opinions on this subject. How would you have handled it?
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Old Oct 25, 17, 2:49 am
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I would have informed the restaurant of a vertical tasting and requested the additional glasses -but I would pay something or ask if an extra tip for the wait staff would be appropriate.

And 1 additional setting for the sommelier!
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Old Oct 25, 17, 8:10 am
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Originally Posted by zebranz View Post
I would have informed the restaurant of a vertical tasting and requested the additional glasses -but I would pay something or ask if an extra tip for the wait staff would be appropriate.

And 1 additional setting for the sommelier!
I agree, offer to the owner or restaurant host to pay for the additional glasses.

Alternatively, you could have discreetly told your guest that corkage fees were waived only because you knew the owner of the restaurant and you didn't want to take advantage of his generosity. The success of that plan depends on how well you know your guest and if he would be sympathetic -- and either back down or offer to tip, etc.

You could try the alternative first and have the first (and best) plan as your backup.
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Old Oct 25, 17, 11:22 am
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Did your guests know that corkage was waived?
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Old Oct 25, 17, 11:41 am
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Your guest bringing the bottles may have felt that separate wine glasses were needed, and so asking him to cope without while he was being so generous does seem a bit ungrateful. I could imagine myself bringing a fine old red wine out to share with friends and then being told that I was not going to be allowed to decant it.

As others have mentioned, I'd have been more inclined to explain the situation to the restaurant and insist on offering them what they feel proportionate compensation for the extra glasses.
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Old Oct 25, 17, 3:42 pm
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I wouldn't have asked about an extra tip for the staff. I would have done it automatically.
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Old Oct 25, 17, 11:45 pm
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Originally Posted by JamesHNL View Post
I recently hosted a dinner at a restaurant owned by an acquaintance and I received corkage waivers for a table of 6. One of the guests brought 4 bottles of wine in different vintages with the intention of having a vertical tasting. Considering the corkage fees were waived for all 4 bottles I insisted we use the same glasses which caused a bit of an disagreement. However, I did not budge and it got somewhat uncomfortable. The thought of the table being filled with 24 wine glasses seemed ridiculous and ungrateful.

I would love to hear some of your opinions on this subject. How would you have handled it?
Vertical tasting should be in multiple wine glasses. Your guest who brought 4 different vintages must feel very miffed about the whole thing. He didnīt expect the corkage fee to be waived when bringing the bottles. From that perspective, you are ridiculous and ungrateful.

Best would be to tip extra for the extra glasses.
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Old Oct 26, 17, 6:39 am
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Explaining that the corkage fees had been waived, hence the desire to limit the number of glasses would have given your guest the "why" behind your request. At that time, your guest could have offered to pay a corkage fee or explained their thoughts.
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Old Oct 26, 17, 7:30 am
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Anytime you vary from common practices, everyone has to know what is going on. If the owner waived the corkage fees, whoever supplies the wine needs to know that well in advance.

This need not be unpleasant, simply letting the wine supplier know that there will only be one glass per person. If that is not satisfactory, you are the host and have a choice which is either calling the owner back and asking to have the fee reinstated or telling your friend that the one glass sticks.

No matter what, the tip ought to be calculated as though there had been a corkage fee if the staff did anything beyond clear the one glass.

These sorts of issues can be uncomfortable at the restaurant and are best dealt with out of sight beforehand.
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Old Oct 26, 17, 8:14 am
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Problem solved!

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Old Oct 26, 17, 8:35 am
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Well it's a tasting so excess wine glasses are the norm. I'd have left a generous tip and asked kindly for the extra glasses.
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Old Oct 26, 17, 9:21 am
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Originally Posted by FLYMSY View Post
I wouldn't have asked about an extra tip for the staff. I would have done it automatically.
The advantage of asking or mentioning to the head waitperson, or other host, is that they understand in advance you're aware that it's an extra request and you're not taking advantage of the corkage waiver. It can be done discreetly, and allows the OP to get it out of his mind and enjoy the event.
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Old Oct 26, 17, 10:05 am
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Perhaps Iím unique here, but Iíve always thought of the corkage fee as simply compensation to the restaurant for lost alcohol sales and a discouragement towards guests simply trying to save money by bringing their own bottle.

My assumption is that in most establishments, little or none of the fee goes to the staff who actually bear the burden of opening/decanting/washing glassware. In other words, the corkage fee isnít really a tit for tat payment for the actual opening services - itís a fee intended to discourage people from short cutting the wine list. Youíre not ďbuyingĒ the glassware, youíre paying an excise tax. Almost like paying U.K. air passenger duty for your fancy wine.

In this case, I actually think OP was off base a little here by managing the glassware and not letting the sommelier do their job. Part of the fun of a vertical can be comparing multiple wines side by side. And even if it was four very different wines, multiple glasses allow slower drinkers to consume the wine at their own pace and not miss out on pours of newly opened bottles.

IME, waiving corkage fees happens often when you have a really good reason for bringing your own bottle (special occasion, dinner for the explicit purpose of opening cool bottles, etc.) - itís just part of the hospitality of accommodating guests, especially when the rest of the meal ends up being quite profitable in its own right. (Some restaurants waive it as long as at least one purchase off the house wine list is made, for example.). Itís the restaurantís prerogative, and once they do you should assume the rest of the service would proceed transparently as if you purchased all of the corkage bottles off their wine list.

I think the real etiquette play, as others have said, is to ensure you tip very generously for the inconvenience of the staff and to offer the sommelier the opportunity to taste the unique bottles youíre opening - neatly covering compensation for everyone slightly inconvenienced by the extra work.

Just my $0.02
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Old Oct 26, 17, 10:11 am
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Originally Posted by zebranz View Post
I would have informed the restaurant of a vertical tasting and requested the additional glasses -but I would pay something or ask if an extra tip for the wait staff would be appropriate.

And 1 additional setting for the sommelier!
+1 on both these!

It is like when an app or desert is comped - you tip on the true net not what the bill says. Just tip for the service you receive and you'll never be wrong.
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Old Oct 26, 17, 10:41 am
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Originally Posted by BenA View Post
Perhaps Iím unique here, but Iíve always thought of the corkage fee as simply compensation to the restaurant for lost alcohol sales and a discouragement towards guests simply trying to save money by bringing their own bottle.

My assumption is that in most establishments, little or none of the fee goes to the staff who actually bear the burden of opening/decanting/washing glassware. In other words, the corkage fee isnít really a tit for tat payment for the actual opening services - itís a fee intended to discourage people from short cutting the wine list. Youíre not ďbuyingĒ the glassware, youíre paying an excise tax. Almost like paying U.K. air passenger duty for your fancy wine.

In this case, I actually think OP was off base a little here by managing the glassware and not letting the sommelier do their job. Part of the fun of a vertical can be comparing multiple wines side by side. And even if it was four very different wines, multiple glasses allow slower drinkers to consume the wine at their own pace and not miss out on pours of newly opened bottles.

IME, waiving corkage fees happens often when you have a really good reason for bringing your own bottle (special occasion, dinner for the explicit purpose of opening cool bottles, etc.) - itís just part of the hospitality of accommodating guests, especially when the rest of the meal ends up being quite profitable in its own right. (Some restaurants waive it as long as at least one purchase off the house wine list is made, for example.). Itís the restaurantís prerogative, and once they do you should assume the rest of the service would proceed transparently as if you purchased all of the corkage bottles off their wine list.

I think the real etiquette play, as others have said, is to ensure you tip very generously for the inconvenience of the staff and to offer the sommelier the opportunity to taste the unique bottles youíre opening - neatly covering compensation for everyone slightly inconvenienced by the extra work.

Just my $0.02
The point is not dollar value, but the fact that OP's friend, the owner, has done him a nice solid. The return is not asking for what amounts to a type of service not ordinarily provided other than when one purchases multiple bottles or pays a corkage fee.

Best to simply deal with it in advance.
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