Depending on the restaurant, it is sometimes possible to bring your own bottle of wine to dinner. There are several factors to consider before deciding on this option and some basic etiquette to follow, though. The tips below will help make the experience a good one.
The most important tip is to only bring your own wine if it is a very special occasion and the bottle of wine is also very special. Otherwise, it can be perceived as insulting to the restaurant where you're dining. This is a tip that cannot be stressed enough. If the situation does indeed meet the criteria, then make sure to call ahead to the restaurant to ask about their policy for bringing in wine and know that this will be different depending on what state and locality the restaurant is in.
The next thing to know is what supplies need to be brought in with the wine. Will glasses be provided? Will someone be able to open the wine or should a bottle opener be part of the supplies packed in advance? Also, make sure to ask about the corkage fee at the restaurant. This can vary widely and it is good to not be caught off guard.
Try to pick a wine that will go with the menu. If this is a first visit to the restaurant, perhaps they publish their menu online. Peruse the options and pick a wine that will go with the general theme. The other option is to pick a highly versatile wine that goes with a variety of menu options.
Chilling and transporting wine
Once the restaurant has given it's okay and the appropriate wine has been selected, chill the wine in advance. Bringing the wine to the location at the appropriate temperature makes it easier to open the bottle immediately if needed. Even a red wine can be chilled since it will likely warm up during the trip.
Pack the bottle appropriately when leaving for the restaurant. Walking in with a bottle of wine in a plastic grocery bag looks tacky. Use a nicer bag – preferably insulated so that the bottle doesn't lose the chilled temperature. If the bottle is not going to a restaurant but to a picnic or a home, you may want to consider losing the bottle altogether for something easier to transport and open.
Know your wine etiquette
It bears repeating – only bring your own to a restaurant for something very special. If the point is to lower the bill then pick a different restaurant. However, if you do bring your own bottle, make sure to order either a glass of pre-dinner wine or a cocktail off the restaurant's menu. This will be a sign of respect.
Once the bottle of wine is open, don't expect the same full wine service the staff would provide for a bottle purchased there. There will really be no need to taste since you brought it in. It is also polite to offer a glass to the waiter, sommelier or chef. This is a special bottle and it is fun to offer something new and different to the appropriate staff. At the end of the meal, tip the staff as if the bottle had been purchased at the restaurant. They still had to open the bottle and pour the glasses regardless.
While it is nice to order off the restaurant's wine list and experience a planned pairing or a wine that is new to you, sometimes bringing your own wine has its advantages. The opportunity to provide a very special bottle of wine or celebrate a special occasion with the right bottle of wine can be fun. Following this common sense advice will make the experience of bringing your own wine a good one not only for you but for the restaurant staff as well as anyone dining with you.