Corkage is for cheapskates

'To make it clear, I do not believe in corkage' says restaurateur JD Haasbroek.

22 Oct 2012
corkage wine

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 cheapskates. 

To make it clear, I do not believe in corkage.

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 continued.

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 price.

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 just lazy.

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.

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