The lowdown on the rules of BYO

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There is a certain amount of etiquette when it comes to BYO.

This may seem obtuse to a nation milk-fed on the notion that it is fine to take your own bottle of wine to a restaurant but in certain cases, protocol should be followed. 

The only BYO places I remember in the UK were Indian restaurants. That was because they either didn’t want to pay for a liquor licence or their religion didn’t allow it. 

On coming to New Zealand I was pleasantly surprised to find that you could take your own bottle, sometimes for a small corkage, and it made for a great value evening. 

In Queenstown, BYO seems to be receding as fast as Rupert Murdoch’s credibility. Either you can’t or it’s a bit pricey. Fair enough; rents are high, times are tough. 

As for restaurants that offer a decent wine list and are not considered to be traditionally BYO places, usually it is okay to take a bottle, but under these circumstances: 

– If you have special bottle of wine you’ve been saving that is not on the restaurant wine list (an older vintage, for example).
– If you call ahead and ask first. It’s polite and if you let them know it’s a bit special, they usually won’t mind.
– If you offer to buy pre-dinner drinks.
– If you offer the sommelier/waiter/maitre d a taste. It’s a nice touch. I always used to appreciate this. 

Taking a cheap bottle to a decent, classy restaurant is not cool. It’s cheap. Go to a cheap restaurant. 

When the recession hit, some Michelin star restaurants in London started offering BYO nights. Sundays and Mondays were opened up as BYO to try and drive business. The rules above applied.

It could be a great idea for Queenstown during the shoulder season. 

I think good food should have good wine so leave the White Cloud at home.