Author mug

By The Glass


Wednesday, December 19, 2001

Restaurant expenses make
corkage fees necessary

An interesting wine controversy has been fermenting for years and is becoming more obvious as our local wine community grows more sophisticated. The issue involves the "corkage fee" charged customers who would bring their own wine to restaurants.

Traditionally, restaurateurs have allowed favored clients to bring in wines not offered on their wine lists.

Wine consumers however, have become more attuned to retail prices and have been objecting to what they perceive as overpriced wine lists. Hence the conflict, when these patrons want to bring in their own wines, either to keep costs down or to have a special bottle from their own cellar.

Most restaurants have an advertised corkage fee. While most feel $10 is exorbitant, it is actually a reasonable amount when one considers all the issues involved. Insurance liability, license fees, labor and glassware costs all contribute to the apparent disparity between retail and wine-list prices. The costs of breakage and of inspecting and polishing glasses to eliminate lipstick stains alone would stagger the mind! Regrettably, those who seek waivers or reductions of corkage fees have not taken time to factor in these issues.

Several prestigious restaurants in town are assessing up to a $25 corkage fee. Restaurants at this level usually pride themselves on a well-built wine list and can offer a wide range at different prices and qualities. Is this fee unreasonable? Well, if you are attempting to bring in a $10 bottle of Kendall Jackson Chardonnay, this might be. On the other hand, if you were bringing a bottle of 1961 Chateau Margaux, then a $20 fee would be insignificant.

Here are some hints for proper etiquette when bringing a bottle to a restaurant:

>> Always call to inquire about the restaurant's policy.

>> Bring a bottle not found on the restaurant's wine list.

>> Supplementing your wines with the purchase of one off the list is always appreciated.

>> Tipping should be based on what the bill would be, including the estimated cost of the wine.

The problem might best be resolved, though, by patronizing BYOB restaurants. Here are some of our favorites, with suggested wines to bring along:

Beau Soleil (2970 E. Manoa Road, 988-0967): 1999 Cotes du Ventoux, Rhone France ($5.95) is a lighter wine with a very pretty nose showing raspberry-cherry-type aromas, great acid and fruit balance that lends itself to food pairing with versatility.

C&C Pasta Company (3605 Waialae Ave., 732-5999): 1998 Colognole Chianti Classico ($7.95) offers attractive, delicate aromas of light cherries and earthy tones that follow onto the palate with medium body. The intermediate tannins, easy balance, undemanding personality is true to type, and food friendly too!

Kalei-Tei (808 Kapahulu Ave., 734-3868): 2000 Di Majo Norante Sangiovese ($7.95) is such an awesomely made wine! Great fruit aromas and flavors, extremely smooth balance and nothing less than beautiful with the Kinoko Kalei au Gratin or Pasta Carbonara.

Le Guignol (1010 S. King St., 591-1809):1998 Chateau Parenchere ($14.95), in the classic Bordeaux style, works pleasurably with meals and is drinking well now.

Maharani Indian Restaurant (2509 S. King St., 951 7447): 1998 Michel Olivier, Blanc de Limoux ($8.95), a sparkling wine based on the Chenin Blanc grape, plays well with the complex spices and flavors of Indian cuisine.

Lyle Fujioka owns Fujioka's Wine Merchants. This column is a weekly lesson in wine pairing written by a rotating panel of wine professionals.

This column is a weekly lesson in wine
pairing written by a rotating panel of wine professionals.
Write to

E-mail to Features Editor

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2001 Honolulu Star-Bulletin