Ask the wine expert - 2 popular wine etiquette questions answered

With some interesting facts, tips and tricks for buying, gifting and sipping, Modern Mississauga’s resident wine expert demystifies the world’s most interesting beverage.


It’s autumn, the season of holiday gatherings and dinners out.
Here are answers to two popular wine etiquette questions that often come up around these special occasions.

When my guest brings a bottle of wine to my house for a dinner or party, should I open it right away, or save it for later?

Conventional wisdom says that when guests bring wine to a dinner or party, the idea is to offset the cost of hosting the event by providing some of the drinks for the group, while the host provides the food. So you should probably open it. It’s generally seen as poor taste to say: “Thanks so much!” then subsequently squirrel it away for a night alone with your partner. The person bringing the bottle probably likes that wine, and may prefer it to the other wine offerings. Suggest something like: “It looks great! Should we open it with dinner?” This also gives the guest the opportunity to say no, in case they meant it as a special bottle to be saved for another occasion. It could be age-worthy or expensive, or they meant it as a gift; not a contribution to the event. If you’re that guest giving a bottle, make your intentions clear to avoid awkwardness with the host. While it would be rude to say: “Hey, don’t hide that! Let’s open it now,” if it is a gift, let them know.


Can I bring my own wine to a restaurant?

Yes, if the restaurant has a special license for bring-your-own-wine (BYOW). Just call ahead and find out. But there are a few things you should know. First of all, you can’t bring a wine that is already sold by the restaurant. Second, they are going to charge a ‘corkage’ fee: usually between $20 and $30. This fee covers the cost of serving the wine, washing the glasses etc., and as the margins on alcohol are often much higher than those on food, these fees help keep the restaurant profitable. Keep an eye out for restaurants that offer free corkage on a given day of the week, and take advantage!
Keep in mind that the spirit of BYOW is to allow patrons that have their own private cellar or collection to bring rare, expensive or aged wines that would not normally be available in the restaurant. That doesn’t mean you can’t go to the LCBO and pick up a bottle on your way there, but it is generally bad taste to bring a wine worth less than $25 (or arrive with it in a paper LCBO bag!) Also, don’t panic if the server disappears with your bottle. They are likely chilling it or clearing it off the table until the appropriate course is served, though you can always ask them to open it right away. Lastly, if the wine is indeed rare or expensive, it’s a savvy move to offer the server or Sommelier a small taste, in case they haven’t had the opportunity to try this wine before.

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Tim Reed Manessy [Sommelier CAPS, CMS] is a wine instructor at George Brown College, restaurant consultant, private & corporate event specialist and really annoying at a dinner party.