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5195 A Rare English Silver Wine Taster

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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 5195 exemplifies that fact although it is of different proportions from the Bordeaux patternl. 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), 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 4/19, but was made 10 years later and by a different maker. The difference between them is very slight.

While the hallmarks on this taster are clear - London for 1876, the makers' mark is less easy to 'read'.  It was made by Henry John Lias and his son - also Henry John Lias who are well-known 19th century makers 

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!

Finally, it may amuse to know that the previous owner of this rare wine taster used it upside-down as a bowl to feed her cat!

Date: 1876

Dimensions: 4.3", 11 cm diameter

Weight: 2 oz. 16 dwt., 88 grams

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