I recently was given a rather special gift by Professor Mathew Vadas AO of the Centenary Institute in Sydney, which Tintilla wines have supported for over a decade, it was a hand blown wine pourer of an impressive size! It got me thinking about how we serve our wines and of course the influence of screw caps- they seem to have taken the theatre out of pouring wines.
It goes without saying decanters have played an important role throughout the centuries. Now the purists among us would say a decanter comes with a stopper such as seen in the two traditional glass decanters seen here and a carafe is a pourer without a stopper. Either way, they are primarily used to separate the sediment that settles in wine as it ages.
In Greek and Roman times wine was stored in sealed Amphoras and was known to age well for many years.
The famous Roman wines Falernian and Surrentine aged for decades and carried a price premium when compared to everyday wines. Indeed the Greeks were known to like the resin flavour that came from sealing the amphora with Aleppo Pine Resin. This Retsina style of wine still is consumed today although I suspect a more refined flavour from what I have tasted! By the third century, the Romans had started to use wooden barrels and the need for resins faded.
Following the fall of the Roman Empire, the appreciation of aged wines disappeared and ready to drink now wines dominated with the risk of turning into vinegar if not consumed soon.
Wine has always been an integral part of feasting going back as far as 700BC. Hosts served large quantities of meat, bread, mead, beer and wine in beautifully decorated metal flagons and pourers.
This silver wine pourer from the mid-6th-5th century BC survives from the Persian Empire. The front is in the form of a winged griffin wearing a necklace, the top is decorated with lotus buds and flowers. It would have been used to top up drinking bowls during the feasting.
An example of a silver and gold bent-horn cup, while the shape resembles a classic Persian wine-pourer or rhyton, it actually functioned as a drinking cup. Large animal headed cups were popular in the 6th-4th centuries BC.