Port Tongs at the Ready



A large family gathering gave a very good reason to put my new Taylor’s Port Tongs to action.  We’d seen these used at Taylor’s Quinta de Vargellas a week earlier to worthy effect and Adrian Bridge had kindly given us each a pair to take home.

The principal purpose of Port Tongs is to open a bottle where the cork may be too old and in danger of disintegrating by removing the glass neck of the bottle as well as the cork itself. That aside, with an audience to hand, there’s every good reason to use them purely for some sporting showmanship.

An unknown, ullaged (a trade expression for bottles where the wine has, in time, leaked out) bottle was selected from the family cellar. From external appearance, probably a vintage from the 1950s or ‘60s.

The brand new (and, indeed, very firmly branded Taylor’s they are too) tongs were duly planted into a fire and left to heat.

A bowl of ice-chilled water was prepared in which a cloth lay soaking. Once the Tongs were glowing hot, they were held round the neck, and lightly held touching the glass at a spot between cork and the level of the wine. Held there for a minute or two, they were then removed and the ice-cold cloth wrapped round the neck which was followed immediately by a very satisfying, high-pitched ‘’ping’’ – et voila! The neck of the bottle sheered neatly, and the wine was ready to be decanted with no glass shards apparent.

The wine had stood up well enough – the bottle was a third empty – but in spite of this it was fresh enough though soon mellowed into a supple, delicately hued glass of well-aged Vintage Port. One of the party, a brother, ventured it as 1960 Dow – a wine he recognised from the cellar some good few years ago.