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Port Tongs

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Tom Troiano

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Port Tongs

by Tom Troiano » Mon Feb 11, 2013 10:36 am

Today I ordered the port tongs recommended by Paul Winalski. On Saturday night three port corks totally fell apart on me.

I'm curious what your experience is with port tongs? Should I practice a few times on bottles filled with water and re corked? Is there any chance that glass will get into the wine?

Wasn't there a good video somewhere on using port tongs?
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David M. Bueker

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Re: Port Tongs

by David M. Bueker » Mon Feb 11, 2013 10:38 am

Not that I generally like to direct traffic away from here, but Roy Hersh's For the Love of Port site has tons of info on port tongs if you do a search. Or you can ask a question or two.
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Re: Port Tongs

by Sam Platt » Mon Feb 11, 2013 11:06 am

Tom,

Here is the link to Roy's video on how to use port tongs. I followed his instructions on the one occasion that I used tongs. It worked just fine. I did filter through cheese cloth to make sure there were no tiny shards in the wine.

Sam

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ubeLgY4vWA
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Re: Port Tongs

by Tom Troiano » Mon Feb 11, 2013 11:37 am

David/Sam,

Thanks!!
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Paul Winalski

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Re: Port Tongs

by Paul Winalski » Mon Feb 11, 2013 1:23 pm

Definitely check out Roy Hersh's video. On the several occasions where I've used them, port tongs have worked out just fine. You do need to get the tongs really hot.

-Paul W.
Last edited by Paul Winalski on Sun Feb 17, 2013 2:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Port Tongs

by Tom Troiano » Mon Feb 11, 2013 2:12 pm

Paul,

Thanks. Other than using the charcoal grill (which will probably be my method) what other methods have you used for heating the tongs? What works and what doesn't work?
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Re: Port Tongs

by Sam Platt » Tue Feb 12, 2013 12:04 am

You could probably use a gas burner or a blow torch to heat the tongs. I would go with the charcoal grill. Even a little hibachi type grill should work fine.
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Re: Port Tongs

by Tom Troiano » Tue Feb 12, 2013 11:05 am

Since I grill at least one course at probably 80-90% of my wine dinners its easy for me to use the grill for heating the port tongs.

Of course this past Saturday I spent 4 hours doing snow removal so we ordered take out and didn't use the grill (which was buried in snow). Then again, I didn't own port tongs on Saturday.

Related question - why do 20 year old port corks seem to fall apart more often than 20 year old Bordeaux corks? Does the higher alcohol/sugar cause this? Do they send the best corks to Bordeaux?
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Re: Port Tongs

by Paul Winalski » Wed Feb 13, 2013 3:17 pm

Tom,

Charcoal fire or an outdoor gas burner both work for heating Port tongs.

Regarding crumbly corks, I think the sugar in Port tends to make the cork stick to the bottleneck more than is the case with dry wine, so that a waiter's corkscrew or a screwpull ends up just boring a hole in the middle of the cork.

-Paul W.
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Re: Port Tongs

by Tom Troiano » Wed Feb 13, 2013 3:29 pm

Paul, Thanks! I was using a waiter's friend.
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Re: Port Tongs

by Tom Troiano » Wed Feb 20, 2013 9:02 am

Port tongs arrived and I tested them out. Used the fireplace to heat them since I had a fire going the day they arrived.

Worked great!! Feel stupid for not buying them 20 years ago.

Picture is actually old bottles filled with water and recorked.

tongs2.JPG
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Re: Port Tongs

by Bill Spohn » Wed Feb 20, 2013 6:19 pm

On old Port I wouldn't even think of using a normal screw - an Ah So will pull it by getting it unstuck from the glass without breaking the cork in half. Port tongs are more about display than utility in 99% of the cases.
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Re: Port Tongs

by Sam Platt » Wed Feb 20, 2013 7:24 pm

Bill Spohn wrote:Port tongs are more about display than utility in 99% of the cases.

That's definitely true in my case. The only reason for using the tongs was that my friend had them. The cork would have come out just fine with a standard cork screw. Port tongs have only slightly more utility than a Champagne saber as far as I can tell.
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Re: Port Tongs

by Tom Troiano » Thu Feb 21, 2013 8:58 am

Sam/Bill,

I respect your opinion but they sure seem like a nice tool. I'm tired of all the cork removal issues.

They also aren't that nice to display. I certainly would never display them in my dining room.
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Re: Port Tongs

by Sam Platt » Thu Feb 21, 2013 10:34 am

Hi Tom,

I don't doubt that the tongs would be valuable to someone who opens older vintage Ports regularly. That's not me. I do love Port, but most of what I open is recently bottled Tawny. I do drink a VP now and then. The oldest Vintage Port I have opened is a 1984 model.
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Re: Port Tongs

by Paul Winalski » Thu Feb 21, 2013 12:52 pm

Bill Spohn wrote:On old Port I wouldn't even think of using a normal screw - an Ah So will pull it by getting it unstuck from the glass without breaking the cork in half. Port tongs are more about display than utility in 99% of the cases.


I've never gotten the hang of using an Ah So. Every time I try to use one, I end up pushing the cork into the bottle.

I do agree that port tongs are mainly for show. I also have a swan's feather for applying the ice water after using the tongs.

-Paul W.
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Re: Port Tongs

by Bill Spohn » Thu Feb 21, 2013 1:02 pm

If the Ah So pushes the cork, remove it and use a normal corkscrew - it is loose. But if you push only one tang donw at a time, alternating, the chances of it pusing a cork are much reduced - you wiggle it down and pull the cork - much easier than a screw.

You just need more practice, Paul.... :twisted:
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Re: Port Tongs

by Tom Troiano » Thu Feb 21, 2013 1:05 pm

Sam Platt wrote:Hi Tom,

I don't doubt that the tongs would be valuable to someone who opens older vintage Ports regularly. That's not me. I do love Port, but most of what I open is recently bottled Tawny. I do drink a VP now and then. The oldest Vintage Port I have opened is a 1984 model.



Sam,

I own a few 63s, and many bottles from the 70s, '83 and '85 so the tongs seem like the right tool for me. Like Paul W. I struggle a bit with the ah so type.
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Re: Port Tongs

by Anders Källberg » Sun Feb 24, 2013 6:45 pm

My view is that firstly, port tongs are great fun, even to the point that I once made my own. Secondly, they really are invaluable when opening really old VP, such as 50+ years, for which the corks really tend to crumble and stick.

Heating is best done in an open fire or barbecue. A gas flame normally does not heat it evenly enough. If only the tongs are hot enough, a tight fit around the neck is not that crucial, since the iron radiates a good deal of heat anyway.

In case you'd be interested in the story of my making my port tongs, you can find it here:
http://www.wineloverspage.com/port/tongs.phtml

Just before X-mas I was experimenting with electric port tongs - an electric heating wire wound around the neck and heated to glowing. Worked nicely. I even made a portable, battery-operated version. Might post a picture of that here later. Don't have access to it right now.

Cheers, Anders
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Re: Port Tongs

by Bill Spohn » Sun Feb 24, 2013 7:05 pm

Tom Troiano wrote:Like Paul W. I struggle a bit with the ah so type.



Hmm - is man still a man for all that if he can't manage his own ah so....? :mrgreen:

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