Sampling the Cardboard Bouquet

by Leslee Komaiko,
from the Los Angeles Times Magazine, November 21, 1999. Reprinted without permission (sorry).

More than 15% of wine drunk in this country is dispensed from a cardboard box. Does that mean the stuff is socially acceptable? To find out, we called some restaurants celebrated for their extensive wine lists and presented the following fiction: A father-in-law with a passion for wine-in-a-box would like to bring his own supply, OK?

L'Orangerie: "I can't have that in the restaurant. It's a five-star restaurant. I can't have boxed wine in here. I hope that doesn't sound too pretentious. But I just think it oesn't go along with the mystique of the restaurant."

Valentino: "That's fine. That's fine. Corkage fee is still $20."

Michael's: "We have no policy regarding that, but I imagine it wouldn't be acceptable. What you could do, if I may suggest, is put the wine-in-a-box in a bottle and cork it and bring it in. I mean, it just wouldn't look good in a restaurant of this caliber to have a box wine sitting on a table. That's all. I'm not trying to be a snob about it, and I'm theorizing here."

Spago Beverly Hills: "Let me see if I can get ahold of the sommelier. (Musical interlude.) Hi. That's no problem. There would just be a corkage fee, and ... uh, it's not like a giant box, is it?"

Campanile: (Restrained laughter.) "If he wants to bring the box in, I'm sure that he could. If that's what he loves and what he enjoys, then we're certainly not going to stop that. We're going to do our standard restaurant charge of $12."

Cicada: (Unrestrained laughter.) "Um, um. Well, gee. I've never heard that, being in restaurants 20 years. I can't put the box on the table because we're a very upscale restaurant. If there was a way of having another wine that he liked... It just makes the whole wine experience a little better."
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