Why Australia's BYO wine culture needs to stay

If restaurateurs want to abolish BYO wine, they'll need to drop the steep mark-ups.
If restaurateurs want to abolish BYO wine, they'll need to drop the steep mark-ups. Photo: Shutterstock

The splendid Australian concept that is bring your own (BYO) wine is just as admirable as our wont for sitting in the front seat of a taxi. It's up there with our love of football, meat pies, kangaroos and (vale) Holden cars.

BYO subsists, dare I say thrives, because it is popular among the public, especially with folks who baulk at exorbitant restaurant wine prices but still enjoy a tipple. 

In Good Food's column ("Why BYO wine needs to go", June 25), bar owner Andrew Leonedas is entitled to his views that BYO should be abolished. However, if the related comments on Good Food's Facebook page are any indication, many Australians are horrified and outraged by the prospect.

It should not be forgotten that we, the customers, are not merely the milch cows for restaurateurs. 

As a patron of BYO-friendly establishments (often) and licensed restaurants (occasionally), I submit the following points in response to Leonedas' comment piece.

  1. I don't want to drink overpriced wine or incongruous plonk sold by a business possessing little understanding of wine, its storage and food-pairing potential.
  2. As a wine lover with an 800-bottle cellar, a meal at a BYO restaurant is a wonderful opportunity for me to drink the wines I love with my family and people close to me.
  3. There would be a case for the abolishment of BYO if many restaurateurs did not slug us mugs with wine prices at least double the retail cost, but often higher. I am unaware of any other country where wine in licensed restaurants is priced so far above its retail value.
  4. Wines of questionable quality, relevance and cost have the potential to not only ruin a restaurant experience, but in fact make us dine out less. How will that help the restaurant trade?

We, the customers, are not merely the milch cows for restaurateurs.

If Leonedas and anyone else in his industry wants BYO abolished, there will have to be a lifting of standards across the board. Good wine education, for example, plus a willingness to procure decent wine, store it well, ensure it complements the restaurant's food and is reasonably priced. 

Drop the ridiculous, avaricious mark-ups on wine that prevail in most licensed restaurants and then campaign to abolish our much-loved BYO system. Surely the path to fattening margins, or even marginal viability, does not involve punishing the very people you depend on for business? 

Darshak Mehta OAM is a Good Food reader from Mosman, NSW.