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Fat Guy

The history of the straw-wrapped Chianti bottle

14 posts in this topic

What's the deal with these bottles? Are they historically legit, or are they some sort of imposed affectation?


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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both.

the straw-wrapping is known as a "fiasco". it was used to protect the thin glass. this hand-wrapping became cost-prohibitive in the 20th century...they just switched to better bottles. more expensive wines are cellared on their sides anyway and thus don't need it.

so...today it's a historical affectation.

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They're called <<fiaschi>> (singular is fiasco, but I don't know if it's related to our word for an unmitigated disaster or not). I have notes somewhere from an Italian culture course I took in college. If a true expert doesn't weigh in before I get home tonight I will attempt to locate them. Please, someone, save me from that fate.


Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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All I can tell you for sure is that back in the 60-70's every hippie in the world had an empty one used as a candle holder.

SB (was there, did that) :wacko:

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fiasc comes from fiasco and according to Wikipedia stems from mistakes in glass blowing wherein the bottle was short and squat etc.

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They're called <<fiaschi>> (singular is fiasco, but I don't know if it's related to our word for an unmitigated disaster or not).

Fiasco in Italian has the primary meaning of "flask." It also has a secondary meaning carrying the same meaning as the English word, that being a spectacular failure. Rossini was known to send letters to friends with a drawing of a bottle to indicate that one of his operas had failed upon opening. I've read that the secondary connotation derives from the practice of disgruntled Italian opera patrons expressing their displeasure by blowing across the tops of wine bottles to make a hooting noise (similar to booing), but I have no idea whether this has any real support (I've heard several other seemingly plausible explanations as well).


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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I remember reading or hearing somewhere that the original flasks were clay, and the straw wrapping was used to strengthen the bottom half and prevent chipping. Those noisy Italians . . . always banging their bottles on the table!


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Mary Baker

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Ah hah. Here's a clue.

The Melini family constructed their first winery in 1705 in Pontassieve, a village on the outskirts of Florence. Their wine was consumed locally until 1860, when Laborel Melini collaborated in developing the straw-covered glass flask (fiasco), which made it possible for wine to travel safely overseas.

So according to these claims, the straw wrapping was devised as a way to safely transport flasks in the 19th century, and probably continued as a tradition.


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Mary Baker

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They're called <<fiaschi>> (singular is fiasco, but I don't know if it's related to our word for an unmitigated disaster or not).

Fiasco in Italian has the primary meaning of "flask." It also has a secondary meaning carrying the same meaning as the English word, that being a spectacular failure. Rossini was known to send letters to friends with a drawing of a bottle to indicate that one of his operas had failed upon opening. I've read that the secondary connotation derives from the practice of disgruntled Italian opera patrons expressing their displeasure by blowing across the tops of wine bottles to make a hooting noise (similar to booing), but I have no idea whether this has any real support (I've heard several other seemingly plausible explanations as well).

According to the Car Guys "Puzzler" segment: Question. Answer.

Not that I hold these guys out as an authority on anything non automotive (and even then they're a bit suspect), but it certainly sounds good.

See also the Comact Oxford.


I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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All I can tell you for sure is that back in the 60-70's every hippie in the world had an empty one used as a candle holder.

SB (was there, did that) :wacko:

Your hippies had class. We used Matus Rose bottles instead.


Edited by dinwiddie (log)

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All I can tell you for sure is that back in the 60-70's every hippie in the world had an empty one used as a candle holder.

SB (was there, did that) :wacko:

Your hippies had class. We used Matus Rose bottles instead.

Matus was not too bad. :rolleyes:

However, you knew you were in a real Den of Iniquity if you saw a black candle sticking out of a Boones Farm bottle! :shock:

I'll avoid making disparaging remarks about Ripple in deference to the Grateful Dead song of that name. :wink:

SB :cool:

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Ironically, the identification of Chianti with that particular reed-wrapped bottle eventually became something of a marketing fiasco, with increasingly sophisticated consumers (rightfully) dismissing the contents of said flasks as unreliable swill. The result were two sets of regulation -- in 1967 and 1984 -- tightening the region and blends that could be called Chianti, in conjunction with a move away from fiaschi to Bordeaux-shaped bottles. The result being better wine commanding prices, but increased interior design pressure for the young sophisto set.


I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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If you are over forty you are probably wondering what happened to the "fiaschi", the straw baskets that once decorated nearly every bottle of ordinary Chianti. Made by hand by Tuscan women who could turn out about 300 every day, these straw baskets have simply become impractical and too expensive to make for all Chianti bottles. And, as has been pointed out, most Chianti today is bottled in Bordeaux-style bottles.

Some wineries do continue with the old fashioned bottles and for the most part they now make their "straw" baskets out of plastic, but like many other wine lovers, I refuse to allow such bottles into my home. The "good old days" have not, however, been totally lost and some of the Chianti wines that are bottled for local drinking are still wrapped in such baskets. These wines, which are never shipped outside of Tuscany, are intentionally made to be as fruity and fresh and possible. Some even have natural, light, champagne-like bubbles which add a most agreeable experience to a young, fresh Chianti. Such wines are worth looking for when next you visit Florence, Sienna or the countryside of Tuscany. Don't plan on bringing those wines home for cellaring however, as they travel badly and will be quite flat by the time they cross a continent or two.

And oh yes....Chianti, Chianti Classico, Chianti Ruffina, and Chianti Classico Riserva are a heckuva a lot better than they were in the 1950's and 1960's.

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If you are over forty you are probably wondering what happened to the "fiaschi", the straw baskets that once decorated nearly every bottle of ordinary Chianti.

If you're over 40 and have recently been to Morandi in Manhattan, you're probably not wondering anymore.

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