Look, we get it. High-dollar restaurants tend to charge high-dollar corkage fees because they tend to have their own sommeliers, their own wine lists, and they want their customers to rely on both of them. Depending on the restaurant, those BYODDLRC (Bring Your Own Domaine de la Romanée-Conti) charges can range anywhere from £25 ($32) at Michelin-starred Chez Bruce in London to $150-per-bottle at The French Laundry and Per Se, two of Thomas Keller’s award-winning, Michelin-studded restaurants.
And, as steep as Keller’s corkage fees sound, they’re a dead bargain compared to what one Swiss wine buyer just had to pay at a restaurant in Melbourne, Australia. A winemaker named Scott called into Ross and John’s Breakfast Show on radio station 3AW and said that over the weekend, the unnamed upscale joint charged a $1,000 ($720 USD) corkage fee for each bottle that his Swiss colleague brought in—$1,000 for each of those EIGHT bottles.
Scott said that the Swiss man made three attempts—an email, a phone call, and an in-person visit—to contact the restaurant in advance, to let them know about his plans to bring in the wine, and to inquire about any corkage fees, but he never got a response. (Hmm, very convenient indeed.) “The colleague got the bill, he’d been doing some arguing with the management but it was all in German, and my German’s not real flash,” Scott said. “Rather than make a scene, he just paid the money and walked out.”
Since no one at the restaurant told them in advance what the corkage fee would be, or gave them the opportunity to either accept it or to ask “What the fuck?” in clipped German, Scott thinks the man shouldn’t have had to pay it. “The discussion was all in German, but no, there was no offer and acceptance, so as far as I’m concerned, there was no contract or agreement about any price,” he told the radio hosts. “The final word said by my Swiss colleague was ‘Well, if my name was Roger Federer, would you treat me the same way?’”
If Scott’s experience is legit, the Drinks Business says that the $1,000 ($720 USD) corkage fee would be the most expensive in the world. “It left a bad taste in his mouth and he won’t be going back there again,” Scott said. “I think they were just taking the piss, to put it politely.”
The wine experts at Vinepair suggest tipping “at least 20 percent” on the corkage fee. “Even though you didn’t purchase the bottle from the restaurant, the server opened it and served it to you, plus being a good tipper is just a good rule to follow,” they advise. Yeahhh, if that Swiss guy didn’t hand over an extra $1,600 ($1,150), we’d say that’s A-OK, this time.