Wine coolers for individual bottles on the table first appear in the late 17th century but remained rare until the late 18th century. Most of the surviving examples are made of Old Sheffield Plate and after 1840 of electroplated silver. Few solid silver coolers were made due to their extraordinary cost.
The usual form, then as now, is the "Campana" which is shaped like an inverted bell supported on a stemmed circular foot, much like a small metal garden urn. Another popular form since the late 18th century is the outwardly sloping straight sided model which resembles a bucket. (Hence the alternate term for cooler becomes bucket.)
Coolers are generally fitted with a flat collar over the top covering the cavity between the exterior wall and a fitted interior canister for placing the bottle. This provides space for packing crushed ice separate from the bottle.
Although the earlier Old Sheffield Plate coolers
are considered more desirable, the mid and later 19th century electroplated
coolers are often of great quality and interesting design. Engraved
crests and coats of arms often proclaim the original owner's heritage
and add further interest to the useful and decorative cooler.
Introduced in England by the 1730's the bottle ticket, as the wine label then was known, served to identify the wine brought to the dining room. By this time it had been noticed that wines improved with the keeping, so it was binned or stored in the cellar for varying lengths of time before being brought to the table. The crude bottles of the period could hardly be introduced to the dining room from the cellar, therefore the wine was decanted into suitable containers and identified for content. Hence the blown glass decanter and its accompanying label in silver.
Wine drinking developed certain rites which necessitated a number of decorative accessories in silver. One can follow decorative stylistic trends of the designs of the wine label from the 1730's to the middle of the 19th century. By the third quarter of the 19th century manufacture of wine labels appears on the decline, partly due to the increased use of presentable, labeled bottles from the wine merchants and probably saturation of the label market in the past.
Wine labels and labels with names are fascinating to collect both for their information and decoration. Labels with the names of liquors, punches and condiments (for cruet bottles) add to their interest.
Dinner is finished, the cloth removed from the table and servants dismissed from the dining room. Now the decanters of port and madeira, nestled in their decorative silver coasters, may be slid along the table to each remaining diner.
above scene would have been the "norm" in prosperous 18th
and 19th century households. Today we use the wine coaster throughout
the meal and after whether upon a bare table or clothed one. Wine or
bottle sliders and decanter stands were earlier names for our coaster.
The bottles or decanters in their coasters would have borne silver wine
tickets or labels identifying the vinous contents. Late 18th and 19th
century coasters range from straight to flaring sides as the use of
bulbous decanters increased. The circular wood bases are turned and
prevent the bottle or decanter, when lifted, from sticking to the coaster.
A silver button in the center could be engraved with initials or the
The majority of English coasters were made of "Old Sheffield Plate" before 1840. After that date electroplated examples were produced, often in fanciful and well constructed forms. Although sterling examples of great quality span the 18th through the 20th century they were produced in significantly less quantity and consequently are much more rare.
Pairs of coasters are more desirable in the
market place, but one can find single examples of great interest.
Tapering funnels used for decanting wine came into widespread used from the 1760's, after the introduction of clear, wide-bodied flint-glass decanters. Known at that time as wine strainers, their purpose was to strain bits of cork and the sediments thrown by red and fortified wines such as port and madeira.
Wine funnels are composed of an urn shaped bow top with a perforated section in the center. Under this section fits a straight, tapering tube which ends in a curve so that the wine runs along the wall of the decanter for a gentle descent. In this way the clarity of the flowing wine can be viewed and any excess aeration from a free fall into the decanter avoided.
18th century examples of funnels tend to be a trifle smaller and more delicate than those made in the 19th century.
Used as early as the 14th century B.C. in Minoan Crete the saucer-shaped taster has been essential in the production of wine right to the present. In order to determine a wine's quality, its color, clarity, bouquet, and taste must be assessed.
The familiar saucer-shaped
French taster (or tastevin) with its concave and convex surface irregularities
in the guise of decoration provide reflective surfaces to view the
wine and a convenient form to taste it. Silver is invariably the material
of choice because it is resilient and reflective. Owners often engraved
their names and vineyards on their tasters whose single flat handles
often accommodated a neck cord. Wine professionals value their tasters
as both working and ceremonial accoutrements.