Restaurant wine prices - Australian Restaurants - reason enough to fly 20 hours
    Gilman Miller, April 25, 2002
     

    Linda Baker's post indicated a desire for more BYOWine policies like in Australia and mused whether it had to do with the cost and difficulty of obtaining a liquor license there.  I too thoroughly enjoyed dining and drinking wine in Australia (Sydney and Cairns) a few years ago but would add that throughout our too brief stay we found that every single restaurant either waived corkage entirely or charged a maximum of $2 (Australian) per person or per bottle. Meaning that my wife and I never paid more than a little over $2 U.S. total to drink the wine of our choice with each dinner and often paid nothing. MORE REMARKABLE, this included many good-to-excellent restaurants which were licensed to serve wine and other alcohol. And we never got less than gracious service when we brought our own wine.

    To add to the convenience, each bar we encountered in Australia also sold wine and liquors seemingly as long as the bar was open, via a separate entrance to the "package store" side of their operations. When you entered the store side's door a bell would ring and the bartender would come over and ring up your purchase. This meant we could head out for a late dinner empty handed, pick up a great bottle of wine on our way to the restaurant.  JOY.

    Back in America, I think it is useful to know what wines and vintages (and prices) are available in the wine stores you shop at so you can get an idea of what the mark up is and whether they offer anything you cannot otherwise obtain (it helps me justify paying a mark up for something I have not seen or for a vintage I cannot obtain). Along these lines I just saw a Coffaro Estate Cuvee for $65 at Manka's Inverness Lodge but it was a 1996, I did not spring for it since I can buy about 5 bottles of the 2002 futures for that price but at least it was not insulting since they'd cellared that wine for 5 years (instead I found a nice 1996 Napa Valley Nebbiolo for only $35 and had a fantastic meal). I find that fine restaurants which take wine very seriously often have wonderful 'finds' at the low end of their lists -- this is where the wine buyer (and the occasional knowledgeable server) can really add value for open minded customers.

    The corkage pricing will often speak volumes too about the mark up. I was delighted to find a fully-licensed restaurant in St. Helena with free corkage recently - Tomatina's. It's more common to find unlicensed restaurants allowing patrons to freely bring their own, often these are smaller ethnic restaurants. If a restaurant charges to much for easy to obtain wines and has a high corkage I will either avoid the restaurant, or simply enjoy my meal with water or a nice beer --- even at an extreme 300% markup over retail a beer rarely sets me back more than $5.

    Cooking at home and drinking from one's cellar is of course the best revenge of all. Best of luck to all.
     

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  • Linda Baker, January 30, 2002
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  • Gilman Miller, April 25, 2002
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  • blusz, May 26, 2002
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  • Jason Lovejoy, July 28, 2002
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  • Dave D, November 12, 2002
       
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