A fiasco, the straw-covered bottle of Italian wine is an icon and image of Italy. Derived from the Medieval Latin word flasco meaning flask, the bulbous long-necked bottle represents over 700 years of Italian history. Using straw to protect and pack glass bottles of wine for transport is said to have originated in Tuscany in the late 13th to early 14th centuries. Different bottle shapes and distinct weaving patterns separated the different varieties of wine. In recent years, il fiasco Toscano has become little more than a kitschy candleholder on the red checkered tablescloths of franchised pizzerias. Once the fine wines of Italy were distinguished by the straw-covered bottles of Chianti but increased costs for the hand weaving of straw and more cost-effective ways to store wine in straight bottles soon replaced the rounded Tuscan bottles. As Italian wines gained more respect in the world market, producers felt that consumers might associate wines bottled in the old style Italian fiasco with rustic, less sophisticated taste.
The look of vintage Italian fiaschi are still be found among the wines of Chianti where Adolfo Laborel Melini introduced the first “fiasco strapeso” (straw flask) in 1860 with a new method to allow the cork to be inserted mechanically allowing for the transportation of his wines worldwide. New fiasco wines keep the romanticized view of the straw-covered bottles found in vintage Italian posters alive. Bringing the wine of their grandparents to the dinner tables of generations of immigrant and post-war Italian-American families; a remembered tradition enjoyed today.