Not all Ah-So’s are created equal
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.