In my twenty years of working in
restaurants in South Africa and London I estimate that I have seen 2% of guests
bring in a special bottle of wine, demanding corkage. The other 98% were
To make it clear, I do not believe in
I believe that a restaurant should have an interesting and affordable
wine list, catering to all that may cross their threshold with the intention of
experiencing their establishment. After all, that is our business and these
days there is plenty of wine out there to satisfy all tastes and budgets.
Where do the problems lie?
Firstly the cheapskate thing. I believe it
all started back in the 70’s when I was growing up. Not many eateries had
liquor licences, or, for that matter, paid much attention to their wine lists,
so it was commonplace to bring your own. And so the trend continued. And
Significantly, these days, it is often the high
earning folk that would bring a bottle...or six, into a restaurant with the
intention of paying corkage.
When I confront student-types about the one bottle
of red they bought in, they stick it under the table and just get on with it.
Bad wine lists
Now let me unequivocally state that I have
been to restaurants where I could have robbed a bottle of wine off the tramp in
the car park that would have flattered the wine list.
If these places offer
corkage, by all means use it and stretch it. There is absolutely no reason
that any establishment cannot offer something decent at a reasonable
Also, if you frequent one of those steakhouses that charge you R160
entry level for plonk and have corkage, then I say, go for it.
The whole package
But, do you realise what the restaurant
industry entails? It is, in my humble opinion, about offering a product and
service that you cannot readily access at home. Otherwise you are too rich, or
Good restaurants spend hours on the quality of their food, and
yes, the wine list. Wine then becomes an integral part
of the business. I do not bring my own paper to your law firm and ask for a
discount on the contract you are about to draw up for me.
Get over it
So, Capetonians, get over this BYOB. Do
that when you visit your mates, or go to cheap restaurants that don’t put hard
work into their wine list.
Invite your friends to your home to drink that
special bottle of wine before you go out, or have that bottle of French in the
bath with your partner after dinner.
And please, please, that cheap and
brilliantly branded Pinotage is not a special bottle of wine. It is only
showing your ignorance.
- JD Haasbroek, restaurateur.