These are caraffungile: drinking vessels used by Italian-Americans who moved to NYC during the late 1800s/early-mid 1900s. Caraffungile were used by those who emigrated from Southern Italy (mostly south of Rome and into Sicily). The vessels resemble decanters; they have pinched sections along the neck that act as grips, and the top fans outward to create a drinking lip. I've included a regular wine bottle (750ml) in the back right to show the small size of these vessels.
Our uncle has a few of these family heirlooms, and for years I've heard legends about these things. When we went over for dinner, much to my delight, he brought them out! I had never seen anything quite like them! You hold them from the pinched portion of the neck.
They are hand-blown-- you can see the punt marks on the bottom, and the slight waviness that occurs in handblown glass. There are no producer markings on either one.
This looks so much like a decanter, but it's purpose is a consumption vessel.
We began practicing pouring wines into them and drinking from them-- you have to hold them almost vertical to get the wine into your mouth. I was having so much fun-- it reminded me of the porrons in Spain. And much like a porron, drinking from this type of vessel eliminates the aromatic component of the wine drinking, which is probably why these are no longer in use today. From an empirical point of view, I thought it was interesting to taste the wine without smelling it-- it forced you to focus on the wine's texture in a completely different way, and the experience was quite different.
When these were common in the Italian-American NYC neighborhoods (like mine in Pelham Bay and certain areas of Brooklyn), it was part of the local culture for people to make wine each year and store it in barrels or other vessels in the basement. My neighborhood is a great example: many houses still have pergolas in the backyard adorned with vines (I have two!). People without vines could buy grapes from nearby. Our local grocery store still sells demi-johns for fermenting during the harvest season, and making your own wine is common in the neighborhood. Many people have halved wine barrels as planters in the front yard-- relics from this bygone era. Sometimes, on a warm summer day, you can hear older Italian women singing arias in the backyard-- it's beautiful.
In the mid 1900s the standard 750ml wine bottle wasn't as ubiquitous as it is today. Since it was common for people to have barrels of wine in their homes, it also makes sense that people would have personal, portable drinking vessels as household items-- similar to how we carry our stainless steel coffee mugs to the cafe for a morning cup of joe. If you look at the tops of these glass vessels, the opening is just large enough for the mouth of a wine barrel spigot.
<-- This one has a wider mouthpiece, which was much easier to drink from.
The wider mouthpiece on this one also resembles a funnel (which helps when filling this up at the barrel). I consulted the family elders about the word "caraffungile" and they believe that this word is "carafe" + "little funnel"; pronounced in Napolitano dialect. My spelling here is a phonetic version of what they heard growing up, so it is possible that the proper written spelling could be different.
[*if any Italian dialect experts are reading this and have ideas, please chime in on the comments section!]
My father-in-law remembers:
Grandpa had a huge wooden wine press in the dirt floor basement of the 3 story apartment building on Pacific Street off Atlantic Ave. Grandpa would get his grapes in Jersey and after the initial pressing, my Aunts would have to stomp the residue. They didn't much like that chore. Grandpa made his wine for the neighborhood, and Italians were allowed to legally make wine during Prohibition because it was considered a cultural exception to the law. Grandpa's wine was red and dry, and much sought after (he didn't care for white wine). One of his sayings about making wine and fermenting wine was "You can't cook it too much and you can't cook it too little." Grandpa would bottle it in whatever was handy (I mostly remember Heinz ketchup bottles). Grandpa's family were farmers in a rural town just outside of Naples which is where he probably learned how to make wine.
At our most recent family dinner when the caraffungile came out, they brought with them all sorts of memories, and the Grandmas at the table began telling us about parties they used to have in the neighborhood. We started passing around the caraffungile and practiced taking sips without dripping.
But the caraffungile was more of a private drinking vessel-- brought out at home, when drinking alone or at dinner. These were not used much at parties or larger gatherings.
I wondered out loud about why we never use them anymore. Ever-practical Grandma leaned over and patted my hand. "I never liked it," she said, "because I didn't think it was sanitary."