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BYOB: Changing the Definition

Written by Jennifer Jordan
Filed Under: Wine Lifestyle

Hearing the term BYOB may trap many people in a memory from college, back to the years of yore when guests were urged to bring their own beer to parties. The hosts, supplying a few tattered couches, a bathroom with no toilet paper, and a bag of generic tortilla chips, were simply too poor to supply the alcohol. Even the large, red plastic cups they had to buy with one of their eight credit cards.

Now, fast forward ten years, for those not stuck in the pearls of youth, the term BYOB has a new meaning. For some of you, it may still mean "Bring Your Own Beer," but this beer has likely climbed out of the gutters of the Natural and Key Stone Lights, into beers made by respectable breweries. For others, BYOB may mean "Bring Your Own Beverage," allowing you to proudly carry along anything ranging from a bottle of good vodka to a bottle of your beloved Yoo-hoo.

For wine lovers, BYOB has evolved into simply meaning one thing: Bring Your Own Bottle.

The notion of Bring Your Own Bottle isn't limited to social gatherings and get-togethers; spreading its grape seed it has spilled out into the restaurant industry, causing people to look differently at those they go to dinner with. While people were once concerned with keeping company of someone polite, nicely dressed, and with no affinity for chewing with an open mouth, these days, it's not who's on your arm that matters, it's what's in your bottle.

Bring Your Own Bottle restaurants are what they sound like: they are restaurants that allow you to bring in your own bottle of wine. Instead of entering a restaurant and perusing a wine list, you go in knowing what you, and your wine opener, are getting into.

For those of you who are wine enthusiasts, wine experts, or those who treat Vitaceae like members of their own family, this concept is one to which you probably open your arms, gladly taking your favorite bottle into your favorite restaurant. Doing so frees you from having to worry about a wine list not including your desired vintage or a restaurant being out of stock of a popular label. It also allows people with wine allergies to bring in organic wine, a type of wine that most restaurants do not serve.

If you're a wine novice, on the other hand, you may view the glass as half empty: this concept might not have you drunk on excitement. This is because a BYOB restaurant places pressure on the wine beginner, smashing your wine confidence like a grape. Not only does it make you go to a wine store, a store that can be intimidating to someone who doesn't know a Pinot Noir from a Pinot Blanc, but it also forces you to choose a wine on your own. This puts stress on you to choose one that won't be looked on unfavorably by the BYOB restaurant, fearing that the bottle of Merlot you bring in will be pointed at by chuckling waiters the instant your back is turned. This, however, can be fixed by simply going to a wine store with a knowledgeable staff; purchase from a store filled with connoisseurs instead of run-of-the-mill 21 year olds putting themselves through college.

Whether an expert or a novice, two things should be kept in mind when you're taking a bottle to a BYOB restaurant. First of all, remember that exquisite wine and exquisite food go together, merging on your palate like two old friends. For this reason, only take an expensive wine to an expensive restaurant. If you are going to a BYOB restaurant that is the equivalent of an all-night diner, take a cheap wine as your date. There's no sense in drinking good wine if the bad food is going to ruin it.

The second thing to remember is to treat your wines with equality: bring along both a bottle of red and a bottle of white. The reason for this is simple: until you enter a restaurant, see a menu, and smell the aromas coming from the kitchen, you can't be 100 percent sure what you are going to order. You may think that you are going to order a steak, and only need to bring a bottle of red, but once you smell that grilled halibut, you might change your mind. Before you know it, you may find yourself sending condescending glares in the direction of your Cabernet, and fervently wishing you had brought a bottle of Riesling along for the ride.

If you do bring in two bottles or, for the very indecisive, your entire cellar, be sure to tell the waiter not to open them until you give the go ahead. The last thing you want is several bottles of wine open at your table: mixing different types of soda may have tasted good as children, but mixing wines in adulthood doesn't have the same appeal.

Some areas have no local BYOB restaurants, but this may change as it seems to be a growing trend. Ahead of the curve, some areas have several BYOB restaurants. The best way to find out if there are any in your area is to do an Internet search. Many restaurants advertise online whether or not they are a BYOB. The website http://www.byoguide.com/ is also a helpful source. If these ways proves futile, then simply walk up to the hostess stand of a restaurant, point to your bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and say, "Can she come in?" If they say no, try saying that your bottle of wine is your seeing eye dog. That, obviously, should work every time.