Not all Ah-So’s are created equal

by  |  01-07-2017  |  4 Comments

The Ah-So is that prongy thing in the back of the utensil draw that most people don’t even know the name of. Theories abound about the name but the more important fact is that it’s a crucial instrument in the opening of wine bottles.

For those not in the restaurant trade, I’m sure that many people came into possession of one much the same way my family did, they were given it and there it sat in the drawer, rusting and threatening to give us all tetanus until one day it was finally “gifted” to Goodwill. But the two-pronged design is, for anyone who has old bottles to open, quite crucial. The fact it can slide down on either side of the cork and then lift it with a twist means that you won’t shred the cork as you would with even the best corkscrew.

It’s important to note that the Ah-So, despite being a simple design, comes in many flavors. For some time, I’ve had a cheaper model. It generally worked but at the same time, it didn’t. With tricky bottles, I don’t know if it’s because the prongs weren’t curved or sharp enough, but it could easily drop down on either side of the cork and then do nothing to help with lifting it out. With multiple tries and a loss of dignity, I could usually get the cork out, or just revert to very careful use of a normal corkscrew. Bottles in Spain often have brittle corks due to wines being stored upright for presentation in shops…

So entered the Monopol to my life. It’s something like three times the cost, but very much worth it. At first glance it may seem to be the same just a bit shinier but no, the prongs are more sturdy, more curved, and more streamlined. This ultimately allows one to use this particular device in a much easier manner.

It is however not immediately intuitive how much better it is. Due to the sharper curve of the prongs, I found myself sticking them into the cork without realizing it. I quickly learned that you have to ease in one side and then the other with a larger working arc than the lesser Ah-So. But once you figure out the motion, you’ll never go back to the to other as it gains so much traction on the cork, it lifts out most anything. These days, if I need to open up a large series of bottles for a tasting, I always whip this out as it saves my shoulder to no end and I don’t risk breaking any of the corks.

In short, I can’t recommend enough to spend just a touch more to get a better Ah-So. About the only step higher you can take might be the Durand, but that’s an even bigger buy-in and I have yet to be able to justify that one although it’s still a hefty amount less than the Code 38.


4 responses to “Not all Ah-So’s are created equal”

  1. fintankerrwinecuentistacom says:

    I forget the brand of Ah So I have but it seems to work perfectly well! I’m not sure what the advantage of the Durand is? Does the corkscrew make it more likely to keep the cork in one piece or something? I’ve always toyed with the idea of having a nice bottle opener, considering I must open somewhere in the region of 50 odd bottles a week, but the Code 38 is a bit too modern for me. I’d want something a tad more classic.

    • Miquel Hudin says:

      The Durand, well that’s for very specific instances. It’s heavy and so most sommeliers won’t carry it upon themselves unless there’s a need. That need is the one that Ricard at Scala Dei finds when he needs to open up one of their few remaining bottles from the 1970s of the Cartoixa. The side blades and the corkscrew really lock everything it so it doesn’t crumble.

      As for the Code 38 if it was maybe like $200 I’d consider it. There’ just no way I can justify spending $400 or then $600 for the fancier model on a corkscrew that has such a massive potential to get lost. Undoubtedly, someone will copy most of the aspects of it but at a much, much more affordable price.

      I have a drawer full of corkscrews that are all based upon or are actual Pulltaps design. The one I use the most is a nice wooden-handled job I got on a closeout from amazon by a brand called Vinium. Well built and big enough for my massive ape hands.

    • Josh Dredge says:

      The Durand is designed to avoid the negative aspects of both the the AhSo and a normal corkscrew. A corkscrew can shred a brittle cork whereas an AhSo can push the cork into the bottle (though admittedly it’s very easy to salvage).

      The Durand uses the “corkscrew” part (worm) to act as support for the cork and prevent the AhSo part from pushing the cork into the bottle. It’s use case is extremely specific and won’t be worth it to most people.

  2. mikepetonic says:

    The Durand works. End-of. And when I don’t have a risky cork, then using the Durand’s Ah So alone works very well, too. It’s not as quick or convenient as a tabletop Screwpull, for instance, but you do save time on the “re-do’s” and filtering out bits of cork.

    When we misplaced the first Durand that we had received as a gift from a friend, I did a quick “Where can I find a clone of the Durand” on the Interwebs. I’m a function-over-form guy, and the so this would have been a perfectly acceptable route for me. Surprisingly, I could find no Chinese knock off copy. So, I bit the bullet and paid full price for the Durand again.

    As a non-Wine Professional, at that price point, the Code38 really strikes me as a status symbol for its own sake with the pseudo-engineering malarky thrown in. But more power to them. There will always be an audience for that type of contraption. After all, some people *do* buy golden toilets.

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