“The wine-cup is the little silver well; Where truth, if truth there be, doth dwell.”
Often misattributed to Shakespeare, the couplet from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam sums up very prettily the function of the tastevin or wine taster – those shallow circular cups that were intended to demonstrate a wine’s clarity and quality.
One of the most comprehensive collections of this relatively uncommon object is now coming onto the market at Woolley and Wallis. The Jeremy Hebblethwaite Collection comprises over 80 tasters and was established with the aim of bringing together examples from all over the world in all forms of media. While the majority are silver or porcelain, examples are also included in wood, pewter, horn and glass, with the dating of them spanning several centuries.
Used to taste a wine’s readiness direct from the barrel, and by sommeliers to assess the quality of a wine, the cup’s shallow form and often convex base allowed the maximum amount of light to penetrate the liquid, allowing the taster to see any cloudiness or sediment. Often produced in silver or glazed ceramic so as not to affect the taste of the wine, later decorative examples were produced in other media.
“The collection was put together over a period of some 25 years,” said Silver specialist, Rupert Slingsby. “It is a truly remarkable academic achievement, and a fascinating insight into these once often-used objects which today, thanks to modern wine-making methods, are almost obsolete.”
The collection as a whole is expected to make in the region of £50,000 when it is sold on 29th October as part of the Fine Silver and Objects of Vertu auction. Estimates for individual lots range between £100 and £3,000. For more details please click here.