A recent Harvest Festival gave me the opportunity to highlight my beautiful, unusual, antique or vintage wine related items. Having ‘Annie’s’ allows me to cherish and appreciate things which I might not normally have. Some of those things include two very modern Royal Doulton decanters and a stunning Waterford crystal ‘ship’s decanter’, a beautiful crystal ice bucket, several unusual bottle coasters, a Highland Quaich, and a number of ‘tastevins’ or wine tasters.
A Ships decanter is defined as a glass decanter with a very wide base. These decanters had their beginnings in the early naval sailing ships of the Royal Navy, and it would have been an exception to have found a captain’s cabin without one- from the smallest to the largest vessel. The general shape began to develop sometime in the second half of the 18th century, and nothing much is heard of them until a well known British Admiral by the name of Rodney introduced one at a victory celebration on board his flagship following the famous Moonlight Battle and the Battle of the Saints in 1780 and 1782. His decanters had an especially broad base, some of them up to 12-inches in diameter, to ensure stability when used at sea.
The saucer-like cups were originally created by Burgundian winemakers to enable them to judge the clarity and color of wine that was stored in dim, candle-lit wine cellars. Regular wine glasses were too deep to allow for accurate judging of the wine’s color in such faint light. Tastevin are designed with a shiny faceted inner surface. Often, the bottom of the cup is convex in shape. The facets, convex bottom, and the shiny inner surface catch as much available light as possible, reflecting it throughout the wine in the cup, making it possible to see through the wine. With the advent of modern electric lights, tastevin have very little practical use, although sommeliers often wear them around on a ribbon or chain around the neck as a nod to tradition.
I have marked examples of tastevins from Chateau de Mersault, Michael Wilkes Mandalay, Palais du Papes, William Lawson’s and Bourgogne.
A Quaich (pronounced /ˈkweɪx/), archaically Quaigh, is a special kind of shallow two-handled drinking cup or bowl in Scotland used for whisky or brandy. It derives from the Scottish Gaelic cuach (Scottish Gaelic pronunciation: [kʰuəx]) meaning a cup.
Traditionally the Highland Quaich was used both for a “Cup of Welcome” and also when offering a farewell drink. The Quaich was originally made from the primitive “staved” wood, then later from horn or leather, eventually pewter and silver becoming popular as it became the favourite drinking cup throughout Scotland. Some quaich’s bottoms are made of glass, allegedly so that the drinker could keep watch on his companions. A more romantic quaich had a double glass bottom in which was kept a lock of hair so that the owner could drink from his quaich to his lady love, and, in 1589, King James VI of Scotland gave Anne of Denmark a quaich or “loving cup” as a wedding gift.