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My husband and I are going out to eat by ourselves for the first time since our daughter was born. We've been holding on to a set of cote du rhones, one white and one red, to enjoy at a French restaurant in Miami that we really like, Palme d'Or.

My husband took an intro sommelier course and their sommelier taught one of the classes. The sommelier said that if we came to dine at their restaurant, they'd waive the corkage fee, which is a big deal for us because money is tight and we'll enjoy a much better meal if we don't have to pay for wine.

So, we called and he agreed that they can waive the corkage. That sommelier, however, is off the night we are going, and is going to speak to the other sommelier about this. In addition, my husband asked if he could taste the wines and recommend dishes to go with them, and he said he will ask the other sommelier to do this.

So, what is the proper etiquette in this situation regarding tasting and tipping? Or any other things we need to know and don't?

Thanks!

adrienne

p.s. my husband's course didn't teach about working as a sommelier, despite its name - it was a class about wine

"God give us good taste, why bother?" Captain Jim's Sushi Chef
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Its considered a generous gesture to offer a taste to the sommelier working that night. Not necessary but a good gesture. I usually tip generously (25%ish) for the privilege of byob....esp if they're waiving corkage.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Your dinner may have already taken place. If not, maybe the following will help. If so, maybe it will help for next time.

It is very generous of the restaurant to allow you to bring your own wine and to waive corkage. I would guess it is primarily because of your husband's participation in the wine course and whatever relationship he may have developed with the sommelier instructor.

Cotes-du-Rhone wines are not usually good BYO candidates. The main reason is that they are not that expensive and bringing them could be seen as being cheap and avoiding the wines on the list. Please know that I'm not knocking the wines or accusing you of being cheap. I love Cotes-du-Rhone wines, and they are a great value. I'm just letting you know how it is sometimes seen. Therefore, the sommelier is being very nice to you and your husband. He no doubt realizes the importance of making sure you have a good experience and wanting you as repeat customers who will eventually purchase wines from the restaurant's list.

Cotes-du-Rhone wines, particularly reds, are very food friendly and food versatile. The sommelier should be able to easily recommend pairings without tasting the wines, but it is still good practice to offer a taste. Remember, however, that a sip is not a tip. DutchMuse tips 25%. I typically tip 33% if allowed to bring my own and have corkage waived. It is also generally good form to order something from the restaurant's list as well -- even if it's just a glass. Again, it helps deflect the impression that you're bringing your own wine to be cheap.

You will find more in the following thread: Wine 101: BYO and Corkage.

We cannot employ the mind to advantage when we are filled with excessive food and drink - Cicero

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Remember, however, that a sip is not a tip.  DutchMuse tips 25%.  I typically tip 33% if allowed to bring my own and have corkage waived. 

Brad, how do you tip the sommelier? Are they tipped separately from the waitstaff? Obviously, I'm new at this, too.

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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Brad's tipping formula is probably a better one to use. It really is a privilege to BYOB and if they are waiving corkage, that's even more generous on their part. Brad, you're right.

Edited by DutchMuse (log)
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Tipping the sommelier more than what one might otherwise in a situation in which the corkage fee was waived by the sommelier raises a sticky question. Can that be seen as a kickback by the restaurant management and potentially get the sommelier in trouble despite the best of intentions?

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

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Tipping the sommelier more than what one might otherwise in a situation in which the corkage fee was waived by the sommelier raises a sticky question. Can that be seen as a kickback by the restaurant management and potentially get the sommelier in trouble despite the best of intentions?

Doc is 1000% right. I don't think that in this case, or in most cases, a sommelier, or any other restaurant employee in such a position in a restaurant like this has waived a charge in return for that money going directly into his pocket, and I think you'd be wrong to turn that into such a situation and get him in trouble by making it equate that. (Sure, if you go to a low-echelon restaurant and the waiter is running a side-business and makes a point of telling you what things he left off the bill, he's probably hinting that he expects half of that in his tip, but that's not what's happening here.)

The offer to waive the corkage fee was made in a nice spirit, and you have to accept that generosity, and not think in terms of "kickback". That said, let me say that I doubt that it's necessary for a sommelier to taste your (or any) Cotes-du-Rhone to be able to tell you what would pair well with them from their menu. It might be a "romantic" gesture, or a "show" gesture if he has the time for it, but I think you'd be fine just to let him recommend by looking at the bottles.

My suggestions would be to tip nicely on the entire check, and inquire of a restaurant manager on duty if there is a way to tip the sommelier. If he doesn't give you an answer that helps you, you could always fold up a twenty-dollar bill discreetly, and when you're done, ask to say good night to the sommelier, and give to him as you thank him. But I just don't think that more than that is necessary, or you cheapen the spirit in which the original offer was made.

Edited by markk (log)

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My assumption was that the diner would tip on the whole check and it would be given to the server to be distributed as all tips are handled. I wasn't thinking (or meant to imply) it should be given specifically to the sommelier only. The 33% would be the gratuity left based on the whole check.

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  • 4 weeks later...

We had a great meal the other night and the sommelier's service and recommendations were a significant part of the overall dining experience. The bill for food and drink for 2 was $160, and we left a $40 dollar tip. How does one recognize the service of the sommelier? Are they paid on the wine they sell on a particular night?

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Just speaking as an unpaid member of the now-defunct Food Service Liberation Front, why don't you think about tipping the cooks instead? Sommeliers generally get paid a higher wage than the line pigs and make tips besides.

This whole love/hate thing would be a lot easier if it was just hate.

Bring me your finest food, stuffed with your second finest!

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Just speaking as an unpaid member of the now-defunct Food Service Liberation Front, why don't you think about tipping the cooks instead?  Sommeliers generally get paid a higher wage than the line pigs and make tips besides.

does the sommelier get a piece of the gross tips left at the end of the evening?

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I've certainly heard advice to tip the sommelier separately. at some restaurants I think they're in the pool.

personally, I don't think the onus is on me as a diner to track down and tip three different groups of people: the wait staff, the sommelier and the kitchen. however they want to arrange matters at a particular restaurant, they should be able to do with my tip as it is.

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My experience is that most sommeliers are not tipped out of the pool. I don't tip the sommelier (or feel a need to) for a basic "I'd go with the Puligny" recommendation, but if I spend significant time in "consultation" I will try to hit them with a twenty or something, through the usual method of the hand-shake bill pass (aka "the happy handshake"). Not bothering to tip, when tipping is warranted, because "they should be able to do with my tip as it is" strikes me as churlish. Plus, being on the sommelier's good side can have many benefits.

Naw, they get to drink the leftovers.

They don't care if they get tipped.

Any sommelier trying to catch a buzz off my leftovers would be dooming himself to a very dry evening. :laugh:

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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I suppose that if I spent a significant amount of time discussing my choices with a sommelier it'd be different. I've tipped a maitre'd when they've gone beyond the call of duty...I'd do the same for a sommelier.

but I've never been in that situation.

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  • 3 months later...

Do you tip the sommelier at high-end restaurants? If so, how do you determine what the appropriate tip should be? Is it a percentage of the bottle or a flat amount? Does he get part of the waiters tip?

I will be at Le Bernardin this weekend and I am trying to figure this out.

What do you guys do when you are at high-end restaurants and you speak with a sommelier? I searched and couldn't find a post similiar to this.

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  • 3 weeks later...

honestly on my birthday, i had a $1000 bottle of pommard rugiens out of magnum , 1990 montille.

the sommelier is aldo sohm. he didnt even crack a smile, he didnt charm, nothing. nothing.

the bill came to $3100 for 10 of us, no gratuity was added, which was very nice. they have so many wine waiters and assistants that its sort of irrelevant.

know what im saying? sommeliers always take a cut of the pool anyway (along with base), unless they are a wine director and receive salary ($70k and up)

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No tipping the wine staff - they get their pay from the check gratuity.

Not always the case.

Then move to a restaurant where they do.

The wine staff must have an incentive to sell, upsell, or just get out there on the floor and push product - Lord knows that they also do a lot of related work before, and after, service. The wine staff should get, in pay, 10% of all wine sales - we've done it that way for thirty years.

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No tipping the wine staff - they get their pay from the check gratuity.

Not always the case.

Then move to a restaurant where they do.

The wine staff must have an incentive to sell, upsell, or just get out there on the floor and push product - Lord knows that they also do a lot of related work before, and after, service. The wine staff should get, in pay, 10% of all wine sales - we've done it that way for thirty years.

Damn! I wanna work in a place that pays 10%!

Mark

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