POSTED ON 22/06/2010

There was an article way back in the American wine magazine, The Wine Spectator, on BYO (bring-your-own-bottle) restaurants. One of the magazine’s reporters had held his nose to rummage in the dustbins of various American BYOs and came up with the depressing conclusion that most people had taken along the cheapest wines they could lay their hands on.

Up to a point, the kind of wine you take depends on the type of restaurant you go to. If it’s a cheap Thai or Indian curry house with no drinks licence, then almost anything goes. If on the other hand you were to take advantage of a good London restaurant’s BYO policy and take along a bottle of Echo Falls, not only would you be missing the point, but you’d most likely be met with Bateman-cartoon like open mouths (not for the consumption of the wine, that is).

The point of BYO is to encourage you to dine out by bringing your own wine, yes, but the sort of wine you wouldn’t be able to afford if it were on the wine list because the usual restaurant mark-up would put it beyond your reach. It doesn’t have to be a special wine, but likely as not, it’s a wine you’ve been nurturing in your cellar for a while and are looking for the right occasion for drinking it.

Until now, only a few restaurants have offered the chance to take your own wine, but in forming the BYO club, husband and wife team Chris and Khadine Johnson Rose have persuaded a few more top restaurants in London and major UK cities to join in the scheme. And many restaurants, who’ve seen numbers drop as eating out drop as a result of the tough economic climate, have happily embraced the initiative.

Chris and Khadine Johnson Rose had been talking the idea through for a while. ‘When we read your article in The Independent about the high margins restaurants charge, it got us thinking how could we consider getting restaurants to do BYO’, says Khadine. ‘We worked out that it could be those with higher margin on their food that generally have a fabulous wine list as well. We were asking them to be less precious about their wine list’.

After much footslogging, they succeeded in getting a sufficient critical mass of restaurants, nearly 50, to sign up to the idea to make forming the BYO Wine Club a feasible idea. The list includes include Aubergine, Arbutus, Club Gascon, Rasoi, Cambio de Tercio and Boisdale, establishments acclaimed, in other words, as much if not more for their food than their wine. The restaurants are happy to be involved because they don’t pay to go on the list but it works for them because the BYO Wine Club brings in the sort of diners they’re hoping to attract and gives them excellent opportunities for repeat business.

Initial membership of the BYO Wine Club is £75 a year, which will rise to £100 later in the year, but those who’ve been part of the start-up will continue to pay £75 a year. ‘The fee is partly about the hard work we put into this’, says Khadine, ‘but we were also very aware that if you don’t have a membership fee, you won’t attract true wine lovers, which is not what restaurants want. They want to know that members are epicureans and being given this privilege’.

Because it’s a club, the restaurants have to welcome guests as part of the deal, which may vary from restaurant to restaurant. Some such as Arbutus and Wild Honey will apply a modest corkage charge, typically £10 a bottle, others none, and it’s up to each restaurant to say what day of the week the deal will apply, whether it’s lunch or dinner and if there’s a minimum spend, ‘to ensure you don’t get someone taking advantage by just ordering a side salad and bringing in three bottles’. Chris and Khadine were encouraged by this month’s launch of the Club, with dinners in three top London restaurants, Tom Aikens, Boisdale and Rasoi.

The BYO Wine Club has a partner in the UK wine chain Nicolas, which will be offering wines with an in-store bottle neck promotion called ‘take me to dinner’. Nicolas is just ‘a friend’ in the partnership and while it will feature a different BYO club in its newsletters, there’s no obligation for anyone to bring along a bottle of wine bought from the chain. Chris and Khadine Johnson Rose now plan to add more to the website, including special events where members can bring along their own wines. For more information visit the website at


Square Meal & Imbibe Magazine is holding a free on-trade drinks exhibition exhibition, Imbibe 2010, (, at Earls Court on July 13th & 14th. The exhibition aims to cover, spirits, champagne and beers, mixers and is primarily aimed at drinks professionals. There is a video about the event ( and a Facebook event page

Farewell the, Booze Cruise

So, farewell then, booze cruise, as Tesco and Sainsbury’s are expected to follow Oddbins’ example and close their operations in Calais in the face of the strong Euro. The big boys made hay while the sun shone. And let’s face it, there are better places to buy wine in France than Calais. You will not be missed.

And finally…

Here’s a handy little wine temperature chart from the boys and girls at

Snooth's temperature chartSnooth's temperature chart

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