A rare English wine taster of 1838
Antique English wine tasters are very scarce - possibly less than 40 exist - quite unlike their French counterparts which are numerous. And none are known to have been made in Scotland, Ireland or Wales.
Based on the Bordeaux model, English wine tasters very rarely have a handle and 5194 exemplifies that fact - with variations. The bowl, with its raised centre is divided into thirteen concave segments, while the raised element is also concave. There is no decoration to detract from the job of wine assessment, nor is there a loop so that it could be suspended from a chain or ribbon to hang around the neck.
It is considered that English wine tasters were made for vintners and few, if any, for domestic use (otherwise there would be more of them). It can also be presumed that not all wine merchants chose to afford one either - hence their rarity.
While writing my "Great British Wine Accessories" book, I was speaking one day to a long-standing friend who is Australia's leading silver expert and I asked if he knew any English tasters. To my considerable surprise, he told me of three - one an outrageous fake (which I illustrated in the fakes chapter of my "Great British Wne Accessories 1550 - 1900"), and two others which belonged to a friend of his. I illustrated them both as 4/18 and 4/19 on page 73. This one is very similar to 4/18, although it was made 23 years earlier and by a different maker. Indeed the difference between them is so slight, one has to wonder if the later example in the book was not copied from this.
The maker of this taster was John Evans, whose mark is clearly in the standard reference book on London Makers' marks, but nobody I know has ever heard of him! The later example I illustrated was, paradoxically, made by the best-known firm of 19th century silversmiths - The Barnards.
Finally, tasters are made to reflect light through wine but this fact makes them difficult to photograph. I have overcome the reflections in the first image by putting it in the deep freeze!
Dimensions: 4.9" , 12.3 cm. diameter
Weight: 90 grams, 2 oz.18 dwt