Bertolli Chianti Bottle


Americans of the post-World War II era were not wine drinkers. In the 1950’s, wine consumption was generally confined either to a few well-traveled people near each coast who associated wine with fine dining, both customarily French, or to members of ethnic communities who had long drunk both homemade and imported wines with foods common to their community. Infrequent wine consumers often drank “Chianti” at inexpensive Italian-American restaurants where they consumed their spaghetti and lasagna with wine from familiar straw covered green bottles (fiaschi) placed on the red checked tablecloths. The same bottles, once emptied, served as candleholders and decorative touches in these neighborhood gathering places, and these same straw-covered bottles of Italian wine were often among the few wines available at liquor stores throughout the country.

Students, communards, beatniks, and Italian-American restaurant goers alike used the emptied Chianti bottles, with their peasant straw fiaschi, from the 1950’s through the 1980’s, both as cheap drink, lighting, and decoration until the availability of better quality American and European wines changed their drinking habits.. In 2012, the little straw covered Chianti bottles, with their residue from the many hours of candlewax dripped down their sides, are available in second hand stores and online purchasing centers for those who keep a sentimental attachment to the decorative markers of their youth.

This particular bottle, date 1950, was purchased on e-Bay by just such a sentimentalist, a museum curator who remembered long hours spent in the 1960’s reading poetry with friends, discussing politics, and drinking cheap wine from bottles such as this one.

Date Made: 1950-1970

Location: Currently not on view

Subject: Food Culturekitchen


See more items in: Home and Community Life: Domestic Life, Food, FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: Gift of Rayna Green

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 2011.3054.01Nonaccession Number: 2011.3054Catalog Number: 2011.3054.01

Object Name: bottleChianti bottlecandle holder

Physical Description: glass (overall material)organic material (unspecified) (overall material)Measurements: overall: 11 in x 6 in; 27.94 cm x 15.24 cm


Record Id: nmah_1419737

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