01438 741177         thewinesociety.com

Would you risk it?



So I’ve had this bottle of Taylors 1963 tucked away for over 30 years - and of course I never disturbed it just to look at it - which I now rather regret. Having decided to open it to celebrate my late father’s 100th birthday on New Year’s Eve, I dug it out this morning to stand it up - and saw that the wax seal had broken, exposing the cork, and there had been considerable leakage (level mid-shoulder at best), and rather nasty looking fungal growth around the cork and the neck of the bottle.
So do I just write it off now and stand up another bottle ready for NYE, or would you chance it?


Seepage is a common problem (in my experience) with old bottles of port.

The good news is that while some seepage may have affected ultimate quality, rarely has it rendered the contents undrinkable - and yes the residual sugar attracts mould.

I’d certainly risk it. After all the cork can only go one way from this point…


Well thank you, Lincoln, that is pretty reassuring. I think I’ll decant it tomorrow (Sunday); if it hasn’t survived there would still be time to open another bottle for NYE. I must admit it’s the mould that worries me - nothing says “Happy New Year!” like poisoning a bunch of house guests - but if I try it on Sunday and both the port and I show no ill effects by Monday morning, I’ll go with it.


Have you got some of those port tongs or whatever they’re called so you can remove the whole neck below the cork? Otherwise you may also have to contend with a disintegrating cork.


No, but I do have a Wine Society funnel-with-strainer, and a lot of patience!



I would hesitate to give medical advice (I’m the “wrong sort” of doctor) but I would certainly risk it. And I have drunk wine from bottles with mouldy corks with no ill effects.

Port tongs would be ideal. Otherwise wipe/wash off the mould from the outside. Then, when you pull the cork, the mould will also be pulled out away from the wine. Finally, wipe the inside and top of the neck before pouring


I’m with them. The wine will probably taste good. Even if it doesn’t, it won’t harm you.

Nothing ventured, and all that…


Try and get an ‘ah so’ cork remover - they go down the side of the cork rather than through it and will mean you have more of a chance to be able to remove the cork without it turning into dust!


And the result is…
Firstly, thanks for all the helpful advice here - particularly the reassurances to give it a try. You may all be hearing from my lawyers tomorrow…
I cleaned all the mould off the wax seal and cork, and managed to extract most of the cork with my trusty WineSoc corkscrew, as I don’t possess either tongues or an “ah so”. (Incidentally, is that what they used to call a “Butler’s Friend” as they could remove the cork undamaged, enabling a resourceful wine steward to sample some of the good stuff and replace the cork without detection?) The cork was largely intact but soaked through, and a little remained in the neck but that was easily pushed back into the bottle. Using the funnel-with-sieve as above I double-decanted the port then finally poured a little into a glass…
It had survived! Very pale colour, and any fruit had almost entirely faded, but it was feisty, succulent, and very long. I’m so glad I didn’t abandon this on first sight, which I nearly did. I’m sure it will be enjoyed this evening by a small number of friends, of similar vintage to the port, some of whom are showing rather more signs of age than the wine!


They still do. Sort of matches ‘waiters friend’, and the reason it is the friend of butlers is for the reason you give.

They could extract and enjoy the good stuff from their Lordships cellar, top up the Mouton Rothschild with Mouton Cadet, replace the cork, and make a good show of opening the bottle with a corkscrew when required in front of their Lordships, who wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

Unlike us :grinning:

‘Ah So’ was the name of the manufacturers of the device sold in the USA. I never came across the name till taking part in USA based wine forums.

BTW, since some Septics are so PC and don’t like to say the word that follows ‘cork’, they call corkscrews ‘wine keys’…


Haha :rofl::rofl::rofl::rofl::rofl::rofl::rofl::rofl::rofl::rofl::rofl::rofl::rofl::rofl::rofl::rofl::rofl::rofl:


I have a (slightly) ancient German “Ah So” device - also called “Ah So”. Prob. post WW2 though. I don’t know where this name started originally but would be interested to hear where it first occurred. Do you know if it was originally American definitively?


I’m sure Google would help, but I seem to remember the name comes from Germany. Presumably it was meant to sound foreign - otherwise it would be an Ach So


It was the German brand sold in the US which had ‘ah-so’ stamped on it. I see Steve and I were involved in a discussion on-line eleven years (!) ago about the name of this device.

Some participants did a lot of research. The board is still active so I will link to the thread so you can read it all, but here’s a very short extract of research by Bob Ross

. It appears that the Pronged Cork Extractor was first patented in the United States in 1879; Patent 212,863 granted March 4, 1879 and issued to L. C. Mumford of San Francisco for a "Cork Extractor.

“Original prong puller manufactured by the firm “MONOPOL” and named “AH-ha”.
The two prongs are easily inserted by a backward and forward motion. It has the advantage of having two blades equal in size (very useful during the drawing operation).”

The earliest use of the Ah-So name I’ve found so far is 1977 in a book by James Beard: The Cooks’ Catalogue: A Critical Selection of the Best, the Necessary and … by James Beard - Kitchen utensils - 1977 - 570 pages Page 518
Don’t despair—you can use our handy-dandy cork extractor (11.220). Be sure to
dry the dark-steel blades of the Ah So carefully before sheathing it in its …

Se entire thread at


I bought my two prong cork extractor in California in the late 70 or early 80’s at and with the logo of the Christian Brothers winery that no longer exists.

While succesful in pulling corks from US wine it wasn’t useful at home, more often than not it pushed European corks into the wine.

I assumed that was the US corks were smooth and shiny (waxed?) whereas wine in Europe had rough corks that clung to the side of the bottles neck.

I call on my Christian Bothers in extremis only, when a cork crumbles and a screw won’t get a purchase


That’s more information than I was expecting! Thank you both. Just in passing, I find mine works well on old bottles with soft, soaked corks. I don’t really use it for anything else so can’t comment beyond that.


The problem with the butler’s friend pushing the cork into the bottle can be solved by carefully inserting a corkscrew first (perhaps at a slight angle), up to the handle, to hold the cork in position. Et voila - you have a cobbled-together Durand!


You’re overthinking this one, Steve. :grin:

If the corkscrew can get a grip on the cork, then it can pull it out. No need for for me to bother the Brothers.


But maybe it can grip the cork well enough to get the prongs in, but not enough to pull it out.

Can’t say I’ve tried it, but that is the whole point of the Durand, isn’t it?




As mentioned in an earlier post, I call on the Christian Brothers when a cork crumbles.