Wine & Food

Snooth User: sipcellarwine

Tastevin from

Posted by sipcellarwine, Sep 26, 2015.

Looking for a best gift for a winelover friend? you should consider a Tastevin. It is available at with limited quantity. You can also learn briefly what a Tastevin is.


Reply by dvogler, Sep 26, 2015.

While technically this constitutes SPAM, I think we need something to talk about.

I can taste wine in a glass so perfectly well, that $525 for a silver cup just isn't tempting.

I would like to hear Greg's version of the story.  The site claims that in France this is how they tasted the wine (and some secret societies still do!).  Unfortunately, you do have to click on over to the site.

It's actually more enticing that the Pirate flask thing from a year ago.

Reply by sipcellarwine, Sep 26, 2015.

Sure. Glass will be just fine. I actually gave this as a present to some close friends. They loved it as it was one-of-a-kind present.

Please watch this video on you tube. Perfectly fine if you don't trust the link below. You can just search for Tastevin on youtube, it will be one of the first videos. They first talk about some irrelevant stuff, but later in the video they talk about the Tastevin and the "secret" society. I guess it is not a secret society anymore if you hear about it main stream media, but it is still a good story. 

Reply by dmcker, Sep 26, 2015.

Tastevins served their place back in the days before electricity, when winemakers and cellarmasters could use a thief or other to rob from the barrel and place into the shallow silver cup, and the professional eye could judge what needed to be judged by the reflection of fire-based light off the silver through the small amount of wine. Then taste, or dump, since tasting was often secondary. Whether someone in such job carried a tastevin around on their neck during their working day or night served as a badge of office and a certain prestige. Ditto for sommeliers in restaurants up, perhaps, through the gaslight era. Better lighting thanks to Edison and Tesla and others (not to mention cheaper glass) put paid to their widespread practical use.

Now they are an affectation at worst, sign of a very famous wine society and semi-novelty gift for the experienced wine drinker at best. Whether they're worth that price depends on your wallet and your view of what the recipient might appreciate.

Reply by GregT, Sep 27, 2015.

So D - do you remember going to restaurants and seeing the somm with one of these around his or her neck? I do. Back in the late 1970s I would go to various restaurants with my girlfriend of the day. We were kids and each week we'd pick one of the "best" restaurants in the city to go to, but we went to one in particular very often. At that place the somm was a woman. She'd always wear a black dress and she'd have one of those silver things around her neck. There were a few other places where the somms wore those but they kind of disappeared and I haven't seen one for years.

Today, when everyone is so worried about smelling the wine, I can't imagine those things coming back. Kind of ironic since people these days seem to think that some certification is a prerequisite to being in the wine business and those could serve as a kind of badge.

Reply by dvogler, Sep 27, 2015.


I'm glad you at least responded.  It shows that you are serious about selling your product.  Honestly, as DMCKER said, it's a novelty and you probably aren't going to garner much business from this site.  As far as rituals go, I've actually accepted that corks are on their way out.  I just want to enjoy a glass of nice wine.  I don't need rituals.  I think you're chasing the wrong crowd here.

Reply by dmcker, Sep 27, 2015.

Greg, would sometimes see them into the '80s, too, even in cellars but more commonly around the neck of somms at places like Maxim's or others in the context you refer to. By the gaslight reference in my earlier post I was talking about the last of their true working functionality, as opposed to their use as a fashion accessory for the entitled retail winepro.

Can't precisely remember the actual last time I saw one out in a working environment, restaurant or other, but it was at least in the late '90s at a Michelin starred restaurant in Japan.

DV, I have given and received them as gifts on multiple occasions, though the last occurrence was well more than a decade ago. No need to rain on Sipcellar's parade. Setting aside the issue of what a proper price should be, I'd rather give one of those than an 'aerating decanting spout'. Not as good a wine gift as a somm's friend or decanter (much less good bottle/s of wine), in my book, but not so far down the list, either, since there are so many gimmicks out there that merchandisers come up with which have no real value, historical or current.

That being said, the cellar door key really is too cutesy for comfort--unless via it the seller is offering real access to a good wine stash somewhere!

To me, after all, function is an essential part of beauty. Something purely decorative is heading straight towards schmaltz.

Reply by vin0vin0, Sep 27, 2015.

Too late here, already got my tastevins and then some.

Reply by GregT, Sep 27, 2015.

So D - the function is an interesting topic. In fact, it could be an interesting article to write, were one so inclined - the changes in wine appreciation over the past forty years. I enjoy reading wine books from the 1970s and earlier just to see what people were focused on at those times.

So the tastevin obviously isn't a great way to smell wine, although I suppose one could get a sense of it if the wine were really corked. And that's of course another issue entirely - were people even noticing cork taint or were they simply accepting it as part of an aged wine? The wines considered serious enough to be poured by a somm were of course French - there were a few upstarts in CA but nothing serious until the later 1970s and going into the 80s, and Italy and Spain were backwaters and various places were known for one or a handful of wines, but France, and in particular Bordeaux, was it. Some of those wines were bretty and flawed and I'm sure plenty were corked as well. But I wasn't around and drinking wine then, so who knows.

I think the main purpose of the tastevin was to give them a visual sense - was the wine brown and cloudy instead of clear and red, etc. And of course, a bit of a taste to be sure that it wasn't oxidized or otherwise spoiled.

But if you look at the pics above, although the tastevin could be visually attractive, it doesn't appear to be the absolute best way to visually inspect a wine, particularly since a lot of those high-end restaurants had dim lighting and candles on the tables.

Even better, as it was before Reidel convinced Mondavi and Parker that his glasses really really really do make a difference, the glassware was often small and flared. Champagne was served in those wide open bowl-shaped glasses that were supposedly modeled on Marie Antoinette's breasts, and patrons didn't sit at the dinner table sniffing and writing tasting notes or worse, taking pictures of their dinner before they were allowed to eat.

Oh the days of yore. . .

Reply by EMark, Sep 27, 2015.

I can't remember the last time I saw a restaurant somm with a tastevin. 

Except on a cruise ship.  As recently as 2011 I saw tastevins around the necks of somms orbiting around the restaurants and dining rooms on a Princess cruise.  I have been on multiple Princess cruises since then, and, not only are the tastevins gone, but the somms are gone also.  Princess is not a particularly upper tier cruise line (I like them because the sail out of Los Angeles.), and I'm sure that having them gave the appearance of a higher class of service.  It was actually a bit hilarious to watch certain passengers--they were pretty easy to spot--summon the somm and bask in his (the somms were always men) pandering attention while the diner decided on which Chardonnay he was going to order.  Anyway I guess Princess has eliminated somms from their ships.  The headwaiter for any given room will provide wine advice if requested.  My guess is that this was a cost-saving move.  Princess is, after all, a corporate asset and is expected to be profitable.  If profit is paramount and profit equals revenues minus costs, and you are a corporate flack charged with increasing profits, which is easier:  to increase revenues or to cut costs?

I don't know if higher echelon cruise lines still have sommeliers.

Reply by dmcker, Sep 27, 2015.

If unlike Vino's the silver is polished, then the tastevin will provide better view of the wine's hues under low light circumstances then murky old glass, Greg. Any light in the environment will flash off the silver.

How many times have you viewed or participated in spills from those old 'coup' sparkling glasses? Only good for those pyramid winefall showpieces...

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