Wine drinkers cough up 400% more in restaurant

The Bring Your Own Wine (BYOW) movement is gaining momentum as diners feel the pinch of high prices
The Bring Your Own Wine (BYOW) movement is gaining momentum as diners feel the pinch of high prices

SA wine consumers are paying roughly four times the value of a bottle of wine when they order a bottle of their favourite in a restaurant, so they’re turning to bringing their own.

Ryan Sowray, owner of wine e-tailer, has noticed a marked growth in people ordering wines to take to restaurants, and this is happening not only in SA, but globally.

People making wine choices in restaurants are guided by two key elements: quality and price
Ryan Sowray, owner of wine e-tailer

“The Bring Your Own Wine (BYOW) movement is not only alive and well, but growing,” Sowray says.

“There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, the current economic climate has put people under significant financial pressure so, instead of going to a restaurant and ordering a mediocre bottle of wine for on average four times the retail price, they’re opting to bringing their own.

“People making wine choices in restaurants are guided by two key elements: quality and price.

“It’s natural to want the best quality for an acceptable price but while there are [some] restaurants that offer this, the vast majority will easily sell you a mediocre bottle of R50 wine for over R200,” Sowray says.

“Why would you pay R200 for an very average bottle of wine when you can buy a five-star wine elsewhere for R150 and pay a R50 corkage fee for taking it to your favourite restaurant?” he asks.

“The same five-star wine is likely to cost in the region of R650 in a restaurant, so it is, quite frankly, a no-brainer.”

Remarkably, even the Michelin starred restaurants are following the trend.

In the UK, restaurants like Kitchen W8, Chez Bruce, Ledbury and Tom Aitkens have introduced the bring your own movement.

“These restaurants understand that foodies, while happy to pay for the price of a gastronomic feast, are resentful of not being able to compliment the food with quality wines, because they are simply unaffordable,” Sowray says.

While there are very few top restaurants that will allow you to bring your own, it is a growing trend in SA too.

“‘Corkage is the price a restaurant will charge you to bring your own bottle of wine and can range anywhere from R50 to R100 in SA depending on the restaurant.”

Here are SaleWine’s etiquette tips for bringing your own:

  • Call the restaurant ahead of time to ensure they have a corkage policy.
  • Don’t take a cheap bottle of plonk to a restaurant – it’s tacky.
  • Don’t take a bottle of wine that is already on their wine-list – it’s rude.
  • Never, ever take a half bottle of wine... sies.
  • Remember the restaurant is supplying ice buckets, ice, glasses and service, so tip appropriately.
  • Thank the restaurant owner or manager for allowing you to bring your own wine, it will encourage him or her to continue the policy.

“My wife and I like to collect wines when we travel and very often will take one of these to a restaurant as a treat. We often offer the owner of the restaurant, or sommelier, a taste, which they generally appreciate,” Sowray says.

Here’s an example of two wines which people bought online in February to take to restaurants:

  • Springfield Life from Stone at R119 – on a wine list at R290;
  • Thelema Cabernet at R235 – on a wine list at R600.

“And finally, to add insult to injury, you could be enjoying these five-star rated wines for less than the price of the standard house wine, which is in the region of R200,” Sowray says:

  • Bartinney Cabernet
  • Oldenberg Merlot
  • Steenberg Black Swan Sauvignon Blanc.