Until we met Jean-Michel on our wine tour of Burgundy, we had never seen or even heard of a tastevin.* It’s a small, shallow silver cup traditionally used by wine makers, sommeliers and wine merchants to judge the maturity, quality and taste of a wine. Jean-Michel showed us a wall of them at the Chateau du Clos de Vougeot on the wine tour.
The wine is poured in the tastevin over the shiny silver, allowing them to accurately judge the color in the faint light in a wine cellar. They are made of silver because it doesn’t taint wine’s taste or character.
A tastevin’s surfaces aren’t flat, they are convex and concave to allow the maximum possible light to be reflected. The stripes and circles reflect the light differently. As a result, wine sellers traditionally had stripes/flutings on theirs because it made the wine seem to have a deeper hue, indicating a higher quality wine. Wine buyers had concave circles which made the wine appear more ruby in color. This indicated a less mature, and therefore less expensive, wine. Some cups have both.
Now (with the advent of electric lighting in wine cellars), they are novelties, nods to tradition or just plain old good souvenirs. They make a great souvenir and our visitor, The Sweetest Girl in the World, bought some for her family. If you can’t make it over here to buy one, you can order one from the J. Peterman catalog!
If you are enough of a wine enthusiast, you can join the Burgundian Wine Society, La Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin. They wear these bad boys around their necks, have big dinners with amazing food and drink a bottle or two.