Saturday's story on corkage policy brought in a serious pour of comments and emails from readers.
A reader from Villa Park, who prefers to remain anonymous, says that he occasionally brings his own wine to restaurants and that they tend to be pretty good bottles. But, he wonders, why he should have to pay a two or three times markup on a wine from the list just because the 2007 Silver Oak he might have brought was already on the restaurant's wine list. He feels the $15 or $30 corkage fee is more than enough to cover the "shame" the waiter might have had to endure for popping the cork on his lower class wine.
But add the cost of the corkage onto the price of that bottle, and cheap wine plus corkage is not always the bargain it may seem. You could spend that same $30 or $40 on something from the list and get a better wine in the end. Part of what you're paying for when you dip into a restaurant's wine list is the expertise of the person who put the list together.
That's not saying that every wine list includes wonderful bargains at the low end. Some restaurateurs cede the duties to a distributor and the temptation is, of course, to pad the list with plonk that's otherwise hard to sell.
I feel strongly that customers would order more wine -- and better wine - -if restaurants kept prices more reasonable. The cost of wines by the glass versus craft beer is one reason some are leaning toward beer with dinner.
And that's precisely why some restaurateurs have introduced wines in keg. They can offer the wines at a lower cost and ordering is less intimidating. I wrote a story about that recently.
Overfilling wine glasses is one of my pet peeves at restaurants, so much so that I often just tell the waiter that we'll pour it ourselves. That way we control the bottle -- and anybody at the table who's a quick drinker doesn't get more than their fair share of the wine.
She's put her finger on the conundrum everybody in the business knows is true. Drinkers subsidize the cost of the food at restaurants -- and alcoholic beverages fuel much of a restaurant's profit.
Other readers pointed out that it's often the restaurants with the most limited and boring — and overpriced wine lists — that charge a high corkage. And some of them don't even have good glassware. Or staff who know how to pour wine.
So what are you exactly paying for?
Jim Ruxin again gets it right: "My point is that high corkage does nothing to develop loyalty among wine-loving diners. And loyalty is the single most important factor in sustaining a restaurant over time."
Anybody listening out there?