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Posted at 04:41 PM ET, 12/07/2011

Ask Tom: Tipping on wine


When a bottle of wine can run more than your food, what are the tipping conventions? (Punch Stock)
Washington Post Food Critic Tom Sietsema lead his weekly Wednesday morning chat with a question that we get somewhat frequently around these parts: How much should you tip on an expensive bottle of wine? It turns out that Sietsema sticks to his usual just-north-of-20 percent tip total, with the caveat that he rarely orders bottles over $60. This led to an interesting back-and-forth with chatters, and he also talked about the best Christmas and Christmas Eve tables and why many restaurants offer tasting menus and demand that the entire table order it. Read his full answer to the wine-tipping conundrum after the jump, and catch up with the whole chat.

Tom, I frequently order a bottle of wine that equals or exceeds the cost of the food. What do servers expect by way of a tip? Do I really need to include a $20 tip on a $100 bottle (that retails for $40 anyway, but that's a different issue)? Thanks, love the chats. Matt, Arlington
Tom Sietsema: Except on rare occasions, I tend not to buy wine over $50 ( sometimes $60) a bottle.  When I'm drinking in that range, I tip as I normally do, which is a little more than 20 percent on the pre-tax total.  
It gets trickier, as you note, the more you shell out for a bottle. On a $100 bottle of wine, I'd stay with a tip of 20 percent, given the thought and the extra service that typically accompanies such purchases. (Think cellaring, decanting, upgraded stemware, etc.)  But if I were to buy a second bottle at roughly the same price, I'm not sure I would continue to tip the same amount. I would certainly factor in a gratuity, but probably not as much a 20 percent. The tipping would depend, in part, on how much effort I think the staff is expending on my behalf (and whether I shared a taste of the wine in question).

By  |  04:41 PM ET, 12/07/2011

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