Fine Antique French Sterling Silver “tastevin”, a 3 3/8” wide wine tasting cup with ornate functional design and thumb rest with finger ring handle! Marked with the French Minerve or Minerva hallmark on the bowl, the tiny number "1" in the upper corner designates it as being in .950 silver (95% pure and higher than the .925 standard for "sterling" silver). There is a tiny silversmith mark but it’s only partially legible so I’ve not been able to find the maker or narrow down the date of manufacture.
A tastevin is a small, very shallow silver cup or saucer traditionally used by winemakers and sommeliers when judging the maturity and taste of a wine. The saucer-like cups were originally created by Burgundian winemakers to enable them to judge the clarity and color of wine that was stored in dim, candle-lit wine cellars. Regular wine glasses were too deep to allow for accurate judging of the wine's color in such faint light. According to a custom going back to the 15th or 16th century, it is given as a christening present, for it is a tool rather than an "objet d'art" and people of Burgundy keep it in their pocket. An essential utensil for winegrowers and wine tasters, the tâtevin is the time-hallmark wine tasting cup. They normally have a raised design so that the appearance and colour of the wines, especially the reds, can be appreciated. The concavities bring out the ruby-red reflections. Sometimes, the cups have ripples and flutings, in which case the reflections take on a deeper hue. With the advent of modern electric lights, tastevin have very little practical use, although sommeliers often wear them on a ribbon or chain around the neck as a nod to tradition. About 1680 silver cups about 3-4 inches in diameter and 1-2 inches deep came into use in France by affluent people. The custom spread and they came into general use among the wealthy around 1720-1750. They were made by master silversmiths, and were often decorated and engraved with the owner's name. Their size and shape allowed them to be carried in a pocket at all times, and they were prized possessions like rings or watches. Each region in France had its own characteristic style. They were mostly male possessions, but in Normandy about 15 per cent were engraved with women's names. At that time, wine was sold in barrels and served in pitchers. Wine bottles were very little used before 1800. After the French revolution the general use of these cups died out, but winemakers and traders continued their use. After 1840 the design was mostly standardized. A few tastevin were made and used in countries other than France, but only a few.
Good to very good condition, age considered. The slightly convex thumb pad has a bit of bending and there are visible surface scuffs and light scratches to the body of the piece along with some visible age darkening in places. See pictures for weight and measurements.