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.

Flasks of Chianti wine bottles in a row

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.

How the Bottles Are Made

Chianti bottles in a straw basket
The flat base of the basket helps the bottles to stand up

Straw covered bottles, or fiaschi in Italian, date back to the 15th century. It was much cheaper, and time efficient, to produce glass bottles with rounded bottoms. The straw basket was invented to stabilise the base and protect the bottle during transportation. Another great advantage was that an upside down bottle could fit between upright ones, thus maximising space. The fiasco industry, which employed both glass blowers and weavers, gave work to many people up until the 1950s when production became increasingly automated.

The Evolution of the Bottle

The fiasco’s appearance has changed over the last 6 centuries. It wasn’t always covered in straw. Some paintings show glass bottles covered in some kind of cord. Once the straw weaving was introduced, the whole bottle was covered.

Chianti bottles with straw basket lined up for transportation
The straw basket was invented to protect the bottles during transportation

In 1574 a decree established that there would be a standard size for wine bottles (2.28 litres) and that a public office would guarantee the quality of the wine with a lead seal on the straw covering. Very quickly, fraudulent wine sellers recuperated the basket coverings of discarded bottles to cover their own sub-standard wine. In order to avoid this problem, the straw covering was reduced to the bottom half of the bottle and the seal affixed directly to the glass in 1618. And that is how the bottle stayed until now!

Chianti Wine: a Symbol of Tuscany

Castles on top of rolling hills, surrounded by vineyards: a perfect destination for a wine tasting trip
A vineyard in Chianti, a typical Tuscan landscape

Chianti has continuously been drunk throughout history by the poorest and richest classes. It was on the table of both peasants and Popes. Though most wine producers now prefer the internationally known Bordeaux-style bottle, the rich history of Chianti is still very much present. A trip to Tuscany without a taste of this famous wine would be an oversight. And if you have time, why not visit the beautiful Chianti region itself?


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