Page 58 - The Hunt - Summer 2018
P. 58

By Roger Morris
Corkscrews, Decanters
and Tastevins
Antique gear to add class to your wine cellar
“You have to wonder, how many bottles of wine has this corkscrew opened through the years? And on what interesting occasions? And
for whom?”
Contemplating a vintage corkscrew, Josef L’Africain knows what fuels our fascination with antiques. The Maine wine merchant is also an expert in all types of gadgets used through the centuries to open wine. These items led their own lives well before they met us—and we can only guess at what those lives might have been.
Among an array of vintage items that have served as bar ware or wine-cellar gad- gets in the past, corkscrews remain fascinat- ing to wine-and-spirits collectors. They’re great to have in our cellars and at our bars as either decorative items or assistants to be put to good use.
While Don Cochran makes his living sell- ing modern wine-racking systems, he trea- sures the antique wine rack a customer gave him. “It’s wood and has rollers on it,” he says. “[It] was probably built in the 1800s and later used in a Manhattan speakeasy.”
In addition to racks, barrels, bottles and posters, other such collectibles include classic decanters, funnels, wine baskets, flasks, shakers and strainers, cradles, and brandy warmers—plus tastevins, shallow pure-silver saucers used for tasting. Wine producer and collector Brock Vinton has some small barrels in his cellar that once held Beaujolais. Barry Roseman has antique French posters decorating his wine cave.
A category that should get increasing attention in the coming post-Riedel era is
sets of wine crystal, including classics like the ornate Waterford and the sylph-like Orrefors. In previous centuries, when wine was sipped and not slurped, many collec- tors searched out wine glasses that were considered traditional to some regions. Here are some examples:
u Champagne glasses, with the contrast- ing, saucer-like coupe (refer to the amusing, though false, tale involving Marie Antoi- nette) and the elegant flute, which could be mistaken for—and has often been used as—a single-flower vase.
u Alsace glasses, with their small, closed- in bowls perched atop slim, green stems to reflect the wine.
u The tulip-shaped Sherry copita, similar to a Scotch “nosing” glass, whose small- circle rim is meant to hold in aromas to be delicately sniffed.
u Rhine or Hock glasses, with their knobby or beveled, thick brown-colored glass stems. u The more-familiar Claret glasses, with their almost vertical sides, and the Burgundy balon (balloon) glasses, known for their gen- erous capacities.
Sets of these types are often available at estate sales and auctions, especially in the interior of Chester County. Some of the more interesting decanters are hand-blown ones, a favorite sales item at the many glass factories that once dotted the Delaware

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