Object: Wine Rinser
Accession #: 1904.0001
As a guest for dinner at Wilton, one might have had their own wine rinser next to their dish during each course. As one historian points out, “Glass rinsers were essential to genteel dining in the eighteenth century,” so it would have been for the Randolphs. Dinner would have had a minimum of 3 courses and a different wine might have been served for each course. So a wine rinser would be placed around the table and filled with water, or even ice, for washing and chilling glasses between courses or wines.
This early 19th century clear, round glass wine rinser with a lip on each side has a continuous band of incised diamond filled cross hatching surmounted by a continuous band of oblique incised cuts. It was common to see a wine rinser on the table in the 18th and 19th century at an elaborate dinner which might have had lemon water in it or water and ice essential during the hot months.
Before the second half of the 18th century a bowl was kept on the sideboard during dinner to rinse and chill glass between courses. As one historian contends, “in the eighteenth century, wines were still preferred as cold as possible and the monteith continued to be used for cooling glasses.” However, in fashionable society, these large ornamental bowls, usually of silver, which suspended wine glasses from the notched rim, became obsolete. This change in preference came after individual wine-glass-coolers, made of glass, were used at the coronation banquet of George III and Queen Charlotte in 1760.
Especially in the summertime, guests would have as preferred their wine cold. According to archeological reports, the Randolphs did have an ice house. An icehouse was common in larger homes in the 18th and 19th centuries and “most Virginia icehouses were brick lined and could be as large as fifteen feet in diameter and of a similar depth.” The ice was collected in the winter time from large stretches of water and put in a chamber, often packed with straw. The chamber could be built below the ground or into the side of a bank where the ice could be well insulated. The ice houses could sustain a cool temperature even through the grueling summer months when ice was needed for cooling and preservation. One historian agrees, “Though not as efficient and convenient as our modern refrigerators, they did the job and kept fresh butter, milk, meats, and vegetables on the table, and, of course, ice for the after dinner drink.”
The Randolphs would strive to impress their guests with a certain level of extravagance as well as comfort. So it would not be surprising if each guest had a wine rinser to chill and clean their glasses between courses. As one historian puts it, indeed “the abundance of highly reflective cut glass would have added to the glittering effect of a dinner party,” which would please not only the guests but also the host and hostess.
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