What "Recorking" or "Merlot to Go" Open Bottle Wine Laws Mean to You
Published: July 17, 2018, Updated: July 31, 2020
You may be asking, what are "recorking" or "Merlot to Go" laws and why do they exist? Recorking, also often referred to as Merlot to Go, are laws that allow restaurants - following proper procedures - to allow a patron to take home an open bottle of wine. By following correct procedures, the open bottle of wine would not be considered an open container.
"Merlot to Go" laws can vary on a state by state basis. The specific requirements and procedures can be different in each state (click our state laws link for the specifics, relevant to your state).
Using a properly designed and state law compliant "Merlot to Go" wine bag is mandatory in many states. In other states, a compliant bag is highly recommended to offer both the restaurant and the patron a greater level of security.
Two Good Reasons for "Merlot to Go" Laws
Beginning in the early to mid 2000’s, wine take home laws became more and more established in different states. There were two main reasons for the growth in these laws:
First, there was a concern for personal safety in "drinking and driving" when people felt pressured to finish drinking a bottle of wine they had ordered with their meal, rather than stop because they were satisfied. By being able to take home the remaining wine in the bottle, "Merlot to Go" became a way to encourage more responsible wine consumption.
Second, Merlot to Go / Wine Take Home laws allowed people to feel more confident buying better quality wine / better bottle of wine with their meal. With the law in place and the establishment following the law, you could take your remaining wine home at the end of the meal. This helped customers and restaurants support the consumption of better quality wine.
A Typical "Merlot to Go" State Law
As an example, here is an example (this happens to be using Florida law).
Florida Statute 564.09 states that a restaurant licensed to sell wine may permit a patron to remove one unsealed bottle of wine provided the following conditions are met:
The patron consumed a portion of the wine with the purchase of a full meal
The restaurant securely reseals the bottle
The bottle is placed in a bag that is secured in a manner that is visibly apparent if the bag has been opened
A dated receipt for the wine and the meal is attached
More Information to Follow
We’ll get more detailed, in separate blog posts, on the values to consumers and/or restaurants, however right "up front" there are a few immediately evident advantages.
For consumers, the safety factor of knowing you can consume up to your comfort level, take it home, and drive home safe is a big plus.
For operators, it is an opportunity to up sell a bottle generating more profit/revenue while minimizing risking over serving. The key is understanding and adhering to the law and then having a plan to manage it.
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