The Tuscan town of Pontassieve recently paid tribute to its last fiascaia.
A much-loved local institution and a ceaseless advocate for women’s rights, Fernanda (or Franca, as she was known to many) Bartolini was forever found weaving straw around glass flasks at fairs such as Toscanello d’oro, in June, and Cookstock, in September. Once the lifeblood of the winemaking industry in Tuscany, women like Franca would gather in groups to “dress” the glass flasks that made Chianti famous around the world, often working long hours for little pay to support their families.
The process was known as the gita: the women collected the glass flasks with a cart and take them home. The straw was dampened and softened before being artfully and patiently woven by hand around the glass until the bottom half was covered. In 2015, a statue was dedicated to the fiascaie in Pontassieve’s piazza Libero Grassi, where the weavers used to receive their commissions and deliver the finished flasks.
Ruffino and the fiasco
When Ruffino was founded in the Tuscan town of Pontassieve in 1877, one of the most astute decisions by the new winery was to combine the “fiasco”, the straw-wrapped glass flask, with Chianti wine, transforming it into a global ambassador of Tuscany and Italy.
The fiasco had its origins in the Renaissance when the flask was used as a container throughout Italy. Boccaccio mentions the flask in the Decameron, while Botticelli and Ghirlandaio also painted it in scenes of daily life.
Popular among celebrities and the general public, this was the first Chianti to leave Italy and it remained one of the few wines to be exported until World War I. During Prohibition, Chianti Ruffino’s flask wines were the bottles sold in U.S. drugstores as “tranquillizers”, imported as anti-stress medication.
In the period after the war until the 1960s, the importance of the flask in the history of Florence and in Ruffino’s history proved fundamental. In Pontassieve, a famous glassworks produced the bottles and many women from the town in the town’s 50km radius worked to interlace the straw on a daily basis. Their quick and careful work was necessary in order to protect the bottles from exploding in the sun.
Chianti Ruffino flask wines were the bottles shattered when Pontassieve was razed during air raids during World War II and muddied by the November 4 1966 flood—a Chianti Ruffino flask, with its worn, yellowed label, still stands in a glass case in the Pontassieve headquarters.
In 1975, Ruffino decided to revive the image of the “fiasco” by adopting a new bottle for the winery’s Chianti, which led to the “Florentina” bottle, whose design was based on the shape of the historic flask. In 1984, Chianti received DOCG status and the first mandatory pink warranty strip—number AAA00000001—was assigned to Chianti della Ruffino.
In more recent times, a new edition of the Ruffino “fiasco” was launched in 2012. The new Ruffino flask maintains the iconic timeless shape, but offers an all-new contemporary image recalling Ruffino’s historic colours in a one-litre format of a Chianti DOCG wine, specifically stated as “Superiore”. Today’s “straw” is in FSC-certified paper from the same supplier who has worked with Ruffino for more than a century, while the bottles come from the same local glassworks who invented an exclusive new model.
With the idea of innovating while following the best of traditions, Ruffino has produced playful limited editions of the “fiasco”. In 2014, the collaboration with French artist Clet led to a frisky feminine take, named Janine, on the flask’s iconic shape. In 2016, the collaboration with musician, singer and painter Andy Fumagalli, one of the founders of the band Bluvertigo, gave rise to a new edition of the flask, a design-driven expression in the artist’s signature fluorescent shades. The limited-edition bottles are popular for special occasions and as a collector’s piece.
For a modern twist on Chianti, enjoy Ruffino Chianti Riserva DOCG.
Since 1877, the year in which it was first produced, Chianti Vecchio has always been a selection of the best Chianti, a wine for special occasions: the birth of a newborn or a Sunday lunch with the family gathered altogether around the table. On the occasion of its 140th anniversary, Ruffino decided to celebrate the pioneering vision of the winery’s founders Ilario and Leopoldo Ruffino by launching Chianti Riserva DOCG, whose refined retro look was inspired by its important forefather, the famous Chianti Vecchio. It’s a nicely bodied wine, which pairs well with traditional Tuscan dishes, especially meat and mature cheeses.
Ilario and Leopoldo Ruffino
Where to taste Ruffino wines this month
Ruffino’s flagship winery Poggio Casciano is open for cellar tours, tastings and wine shop purchases.
Via Poggio al Mandorlo 1, Quarate-Bagno a Ripoli (Florence)
Reservations recommended: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tel. +39 055 64 99 712