Robin Butler on Twitter



October 2013

Christmas and Thanksgiving will soon be upon us - or perhaps that is a little 'forceful', but at least should we start thinking about what we will be doing, where, with whom and what gifts they may like to receive.  What we would hope for ourselves may also enter the equation!

Many say it is difficult to buy presents for men and that is quite understandable.  From a male perspective it is not always easy to buy for female family and friends either.  While many men in particular love wine, it can be the ultimate problem to find an appropriate wine as a gift if you are looking to find a bottle for an enthusiast.  It is not the same as bringing one when you visit friends for an evening.  However, things that enhance the enjoyment of wine are a much easier gift option; few would not want a decanter, but are there other aids to wining and dining which would be equally appreciated?

Of course, decanters are good for all wines, young or old, white or red, fine wine or a cheap one from a supermarket and I have extolled the virtues of decanters in this medium before.  While they may be the best all-round wine-related gift and I have a fine array to choose from, let me suggest a couple of other options. Foremost in my mind are funnels and coasters.    

I am constantly looking for good funnels to buy, but most that I see in auction rooms, on the websites of others, or on Internet auctions are either poor examples, overpriced or damaged.  As I have mentioned before, a wine funnel (as opposed to a funnel used for other purposes) has a curved spout to send the wine down the wall of the decanter.  Wine funnel spouts were frequently damaged or simply bent and thousands have undergone the cheapest remedy of cutting or filing away the damaged part.  I would almost go as far as to say that the majority I see have had their spouts reduced.  I would not 'unload' one of those on you!

Currently, I have some excellent ones and all are good examples.  I also have two rare glass wine funnels which are 'collector's pieces'.   In addition, I have a wine funnel stand which is of unusually heavy gauge and is lightly engraved with a military crest for the 50th (The Queen's Own) Regiment of Foot. 

Funnel stands are not often seen and very rarely of this quality.  Of course, funnel stands protect furniture from being stained with wine if funnels are inadvertently put down on a a polished surface; that is their function.  There are two minor conundrums associated with funnels stands:- first, they are very seldom seen with their original funnels and second, a disproportionate number were made in either Edinburgh or Dublin compared with those from English makers.  Mine was made in London which probably accounts for its high original quality.

Coasters, like funnels, are designed to prevent the polished surfaces of tables from becoming stained with wine.  They also help prevent two decanters from coming into contact with one another - which usually results in scratches, chips, cracks or worse.  And with the baize-lined undersides, they are easy to push around the table for guests to help themselves (appalling thought!), but that is how they acquired their moniker - they coasted around the table.

Currently I have a fine selection of coasters, from small to very large, in silver, old Sheffield plate, papier mâché, treen (turned wood) and even a pair of copper examples.  They include the rare and the practical, and include several which were made for magnum decanters and even larger formats.  The most decorative are those made of papier mâché and were making very high prices some years ago.  The recent recession saw their prices tumble, and having reached a sensible level last year, they are beginning to climb again.  Now may be a good time to buy.

 My personal favourite coasters are those made of mahogany towards the end of the 18th century.  I love the simplicity, relatively low profile and the gentle understatement they convey on the table, but they are not easy to find despite my having an excellent selection at the moment.  Finally however, we must not forget those coasters made of silver, whether gilded or 'in the white', and these, too are represented in my current selection.

Return to newsletters list