“Hey Mr Sommelier, Here’s one I bought with me…”


A few years ago I tried to take my own bottle of wine into a restaurant in Primrose Hill, London. I was celebrating the launch of a new wine website and wanted something special to drink.

Being a rational kind of fellow, I explained the situation to the manager of the restaurant and said that I would happily pay what he deemed to be a fair fee for corkage. The owner, being an inflexible buffoon, said that he was unable to meet my request and told me that they had  ‘many very excellent wines on our list”.

Determined, I then offered to pay him the value of the most expensive wine on his list (approx £30) for the privilege of drinking my own wine. Again he refused saying it was against company policy. It was against company policy for a customer to effectively give him money for free.

Befuddled, I left the restaurant with my colleague and we went round the corner to the excellent ‘Manna’ where they were happy to accommodate my request for the nominal fee of £5. It was such a  bargain that I tipped heavily.

So, WineOfTheWeek welcomes the recently launched London initiative called the “BYO Wine Club”. For an annual membership fee of £99 (£75 introduction price) members pay no or reduced corkage charges at what the founder claim to be “many of London’s best venues, including top Michelin-rated restaurants, trendy newcomers and neighbourhood favourites.”

You simply need to make a reservation with the restaurant directly, tell them that you are a BYO member and then produce your card when you turn up.

If I wasn’t a new father who never goes out anymore I’d give this a go. Alas for the next 18 years I am housebound.


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8 Responses to “Hey Mr Sommelier, Here’s one I bought with me…”

  1. Robert McIntosh (@thirstforwine) June 14, 2010 at 14:00 #

    interesting and sad experience.

    I saw this and thought same (& in similar position). One question though … How to justify £99?

    • Gavino June 14, 2010 at 14:18 #

      I was thinking the same thing. How many times would you need to use the service and what quality of wine would you need to drink to really get the most out of this service. I’ll plug some sums into the wineoftheweek supercomputer!

      • Rob Wade June 14, 2010 at 18:11 #

        Most of the restaurants I’ve worked at mark wines up by three to four times. It’s shocking, but it’s also how restaurants survive.

        Anyway – if you took a nice bottle that set you back £35, you’d make your £99 back (more or less) in one visit, as the restaurant would have charged in the region of £100-£140 for the same bottle.

        Cheaper bottles would take a few more visits, but I don’t suppose they’re targeting people who eat out once a year.

        I reckon you could ask the lady behind the idea where the money is going as she’s on twitter and seems pretty friendly.

        • Gavino June 14, 2010 at 19:41 #

          Thanks Rob. Yes, they are clearly targeting it at people who’ve got some decent wines in their cellars and personally I’d jump at the chance of taking a £25 of Ridge Geyserville to a restaurant that marks it up at £80.

          Oddly, I don’t mind paying a high price for decent wine in a restaurant. I get most irate at paying £20 for a wine that retails at £6!

  2. Robert Giorgione June 14, 2010 at 14:07 #

    I agree BYO Wine Club is a great concept and more restaurants should more open, flexible and accomodating with this. However, now that you’ll no longer be eating out as much, you’ll be able enjoy your bottles at home more often too? No corkage fee either

    • Gavino June 14, 2010 at 14:17 #

      Yes, we’ve also moved out of London and the choice of restaurants in Sevenoaks is limited. The concept of corkage hasn’t reached these parts. Although corked wine has.

  3. Warren Edwardes June 14, 2010 at 15:27 #

    Great idea. But yes why the £99?

    Why don’t the restaurants just announce corkage?

    And hey will they Tandoori my chicken for me if I bring one in?

    Any pubs on the list? I’d rather like to take my own beer and wine into the pub on the rare times I go into pubs to watch cricket or football.

    • Gavino June 14, 2010 at 15:40 #

      I like the idea of restaurants offering a “Bring your own raw ingredients” policy. I’d take a raw liver and a nice drop of Chianti.

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