Corkage & Why You Should Care

When ScoopCharlotte asked me to do a post on Corkage I was excited to dive into something new. While I have never brought a bottle of wine with me to dinner, writing this article sure did make a good case for it. What is corkage? Read on.


I have one word for you: Wine.

Ok, now that I have your attention, let’s talk corkage. While it may seem silly to bring your own entree to a restaurant, selecting the perfect bottle of wine and bringing that along is downright genius. Not only do you get to enjoy your favorites, but you get to do so while indulging in a delicious meal prepared and cooked just for you. After slaving away at a Thanksgiving meal just to have your children only eat a single bread roll – it doesn’t sound much better than this.

Bonterra Dining

Corkage is what restaurateurs call the fee charged for opening your personal wine brought along with you to their restaurant. The major benefit of this service is that you can bring nicer wines and enjoy them for a slimmer price than what it costs to purchase bottles at the restaurant. Charlotte corkage culture is on the rise with multiple restaurants offering the service at various prices within the range. For a full, printable go-to guide of Charlotte Corkage Fees, check out Charlotte Magazine’s Restaurant Guide.

photo courtesy of @vivacecharlotte on Instagram

 

Like most things in life, corkage (and the fees that come along with it) has its pros and cons. Here’s the Scoop…

Pros

The average corkage fee in the United States is $25. With a rising Corkage Culture, Charlotte is extremely competitive when it comes to the fee charges throughout local restaurants…prices range mostly from $15 to $30 with a few winners at $10. And a couple are even free, like Upstream, where there is no corkage if your bottle is not on their wine list.

You’ll be on trend. Most metropolitan areas have adopted the practice, and it’s no longer just your wine snob boss or banker brother-in-law who does it. Why?

Depending upon the quality of wine you choose to tote along, even with a corkage fee, you have a good chance of avoiding the mark up on restaurant selections. Nationally, restaurant wines are marked up nearly two and a half to three times their price. If you were to bring a $30 bottle of wine and paid a $15 corkage fee, you could still save a significant amount…which I would naturally suggest putting towards dessert.

Some restaurants spend much more time cultivating a perfect wine list than others, and some try to keep their mark-ups as low as possible. At these spots, we recommend going with their selections and their list. However, if you’ve seen the list online and it doesn’t look appealing, bringing your own could save the dinner.

Corkage fees are perfect for celebrations. That bottle you have been saving for a 25th anniversary or 50th birthday can now be enjoyed in the comfort of the restaurant of your choice.

photo courtesy of The Gallery Restaurant

 

Cons

The biggest argument against corkage fees? The inevitable “you didn’t bring your own meat for the chef to cook, why would you bring your own wine?” Sigh.

If you choose to bring along a $10 bottle, corkage could end up costing you more. That $10 bottle could turn into a $35 total price that could have been put to a nicer, more robust palette cleanser.  As a good practice (for so many reasons), save the $10 bottle for movie night at home.

More often than not, there is going to be a bottle limit on corkage. Don’t expect to show up with a case of wine for your reservation for 10. Whether it be during the same meal or on your next trip to the eatery, etiquette experts recommend purchasing one bottle from the restaurant for each bottle you bring.

Corkage is considered a fine dining service. With fine dining comes a fee – and not just the corkage. Be sure to tip the sommelier at least 20% for their service on top of your meal bill. And many diners offer the sommelier a taste or glass of their special wine to enjoy, it’s just considered good form.


Even if you decide corkage isn’t your thing, the list of restaurants offering the service is everyone’s treasure as they are some of the most delectable in Charlotte. We paired some of our favorite dishes with wines that would compliment their flavors as a little inspiration to fulfill your corkage dreams.

Vivace‘s Calamari Antipasti Appetizer + Porer Pinot Grigio

Bonterra‘s Create Your Own Charcuterie Board + Hall Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Good Food‘s Pork Belly Steamed Bun + Nik Weis Urban Reisling

The Gallery‘s Sea Bass + Au Contraire Chardonnay

Block & Grinder‘s NY Strip + Clos Du Val Merlot

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