Thursday, May 30, 2024

5 Sommelier-Approved Tools for Your Next BYOB

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There is a certain magic that happens when you’re dining at a restaurant with a bring-your-own-bottle policy. You become your own sommelier, and in turn, the vibes keeper, pairing crushable bottles with your go-to orders and making sure everyone’s glasses are always full. And to ensure that for you, your pals, and the restaurant, it’s best to come prepared. Brushing up on your BYOB etiquette—as in, call ahead to confirm that the restaurant actually has this policy and give them a heads-up you’re coming in—is part of it, along with bringing the right wine gadgets.

Whenever June Rodil rolls into a BYOB spot, she gathers fellow wine-industry friends, “an ocean of wine,” and, most important, the right gear. As a sommelier, winemaker behind June’s Rosé, and partner at Goodnight Hospitality in Houston, she plans ahead because nothing kills the mood like not having a proper wine opener.

Then, they’re ready to go with the BYOB experience, trying some of their best wines and inviting fellow diners and employees of the restaurant to participate, if they’re game. “We’re smiling, drinking, pouring, and, of course, someone is going to say, ‘What the hell is going on?’” Rodil explains of how diners’ react to the way she and other wine pros BYOB. “As an industry person, you’re like, ‘Oh you can bring wines here and it’s great. Would you like some?’”

Here, Rodil shares her tried-and-true recommendations for a few essential gear for your best BYOB experience:

Zwiesel All Purpose Wine Glasses, Set of 6

Not every BYOB restaurant has wine glasses, so bring your own set if you’re picky. Rodil reaches for these German-made crystal glasses—which she also has stocked at her restaurants—because they’re durable, dishwasher-safe, and elegant. “Plus, they’re smaller, so you can have two glasses per person without them getting in the way of all the food,” she says.

When you’re in the middle of opening a bottle of wine, the last thing you want to see is the cork starting to crumble. Luckily, Rodil has planned for this. She carries this two-pronged wine opener—the way it works is you shimmy each prong in between the bottle neck and the cork, then gently twist the whole thing to wiggle out the cork. “It works for trickier corks, usually ones that are sticky or older, go with this,” she says.

Rodil never goes anywhere without this double-hinged wine key, which is easier to use than the above. All you do is screw the metal spiral through the center of the cork and use the handle as leverage to pull it out. “It’s classic, inexpensive, and something you’re not afraid to lose,” Rodil says. “Sometimes I even give the key to my servers at BYOBs.” It’s also a free advertisement for her wine shop, Rodil admits sheepishly (you can order brand-neutral options online as well).

A lot of more casual restaurants aren’t prepared with ice and wine buckets, so Rodil relies on this hard case cooler, which claims it can maintain “Champagne cold” temps for 50 hours. She was immediately smitten when she saw a winemaker friend using it in South Africa. “The retro vibe is chef’s kiss. It’s chic and can fit three bottles or a billion beers,” she says. “It has replaced my Yeti.”

Anything can be a wine tote, but Rodil stands by this fishing bag. “It holds six bottles perfectly and has all these little side compartments for all my wine gadgets,” she says. “I love it so much.” But you don’t have to get somm-approved gear to have a good time. “Just stuff your wine in your reusable canvas or backpack,” Rodil adds. “I unabashedly carry wines in the actual boxes they come in.”

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