The traditional bottle of Chianti red has a very distinctive shape , tapered at the top with a rounded straw covered bottom. Though these bottles are slowly disappearing from most Italian tables and are almost only sold as souvenirs, they still carry a legacy and long standing history. In this article you will find out why the bottles were made that way and know a little more about Chianti, the most famous wine of Tuscany. Straw covered bottles, or fiaschi in Italian, date back to the 15th century.
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The basket is typically made of sala , a swamp weed , sun-dried and blanched with sulfur. The basket provides protection during transportation and handling, and also a flat base for the container. Thus the glass bottle can have a round bottom, which is much simpler to make by glass blowing. Fiaschi can be efficiently packed for transport, with the necks of inverted bottles safely tucked into the spaces between the baskets of upright ones. Boccaccio mentions the fiasco in the Decameron around , as a receptacle for red wine and administrative documents of the time mention the profession of fiascaio "fiasco-maker".
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In essence, Chianti was a disaster for its first several decades in the United states. Blanched straw wrapped around these iconic bottles served two purposes: easy-to-blow—over round bottles could now stand up straight, and the baskets added protection during shipping. In short, fiaschi were cheap and easy—like most elements of early Chianti.
The best examples are remarkably distinctive, wonderfully satisfying and, in some ways, the essence of Italian red wines. Still many people seem unaware of what they are missing. At a dinner party recently, I brought a few bottles of wine including one of my favorite Chianti Classicos, a from Monteraponi. When the bottle was poured, the other guests loved it, but seemed shocked at learning its identity.