9/07/2012 10:05:00 AM
BYO Wine Guide: Six Tips for Bringing Your Own
David Snyder is a food and wine writer (you may know him as PhilaFoodie), and part-time Philadelphia City Paper restaurant critic.
One of the signature features of Philadelphia’s rich dining scene is, and has long been, the BYO: a restaurant that allows you to “bring your own” bottle of wine. These days, it is not uncommon for a restaurant to mark up its bottles by 300% or more, which can make dining out prohibitively expensive. Being able to bring your own wine makes dining out more accessible... and more fun. Here are six tips on how to get the most out of your BYO experience.
1) Check Out the Menu Beforehand
It is helpful to know what the restaurant is serving before you decide what wine to bring. When I learned that one of my favorite sushi spots, Izumi, was serving live uni, I scrapped the grassy sauvignon blanc I had on deck and instead grabbed a vermentino, which has a wonderful current of salinity that was a seamless partner for that briny sea urchin.
2) Bring More Than One Bottle
If you bring only one bottle, chances are it will not go with every dish you order. Dining at a BYO is your opportunity not only to pair a different wine with each course, but also to truly explore. Which wine will go better with the squash and mushroom gratin at the country farm-to-table gem Talula’s Table - a fruity California pinot noir or a loamy, old world-style burgundy? Bring both and decide for yourself. And you don’t have to drink it all. Many states, like Pennsylvania, allow you to take the unfinished bottles home with you, as long as they are resealed.
3) Bring a Backup
Nothing ruins a meal like the wet basement smell of a corked wine. It can happen when you least expect it. If the only red you brought to drink with your Wagyu sirloin is tainted, you’re out of luck. For the featured wine of the night, bring a spare.
4) Start With a Bubbly
Every meal you share with your friends and loved ones should be a celebration. Punctuate those moments by kicking off the night with the inherently festive spirit of a sparkling wine.
5) Splurge Occasionally
A BYO can be the perfect stage to share a rare and amazing bottle with someone special. For my girlfriend’s birthday, I took her to our favorite spot, Bibou - a postage stamp-sized French BYO in Bella Vista. The cavalcade of wines I sourced for the occasion were all from her birth year, including a Dom Perignon and two first growth Bordeaux - one of which was corked (yes, I had a spare). It was an experience neither of us will soon forget.
Whether it is with the couple sitting at the table next to you, your dutiful server, the chef or all of the above - offer to share your wine with those around you. Wine has a way of bringing people together, and the connections you make could last a lot longer than even the most ageable wines.