Date Made/Found: 1800-1840
Material and Medium: Old Sheffield Plate
Department: Decorative Art
This is an Old Sheffield Plate wine funnel, made in the early 1800s.
This funnel was used to pour wine from a bottle into a decanter. The holes in the base of the funnel act as a filter (originally lined with muslin fabric), trapping any sediment as the wine is poured. The curved spout directs the wine towards the side of the decanter to minimise ‘bruising’ which can affect the flavour. The ribs on the outside allow for air to escape from the decanter as wine in poured in.
Some people still prefer to decant wine before drinking, to let it mix with air a little and thus improve its flavour. The curve of the funnel allows for gentle aeration without splashing, helping prevent over-oxidation. Filtering the wine is also important as sediment can become a problem toward the last quarter of a bottle. Mess is minimised, with funnels often having a matching stand to catch residual drips, so as not to stain expensive furniture. Funnels are still considered a key piece of equipment for keen wine drinkers and those sold today differ very little in design from much earlier versions.
There are few wine funnels dated before the 1700s. They first appeared in large numbers in the 1770s, around the same time that wine coasters became very popular. Silver plated ones usually date from 1800 onwards and were most common in the 1820s.