THE CRAZY CART

24/06/15, antinori

   

Since today, Palazzo Antinori hosts an old cart in its courtyard, as part as Antinori family collection. This cart is only the first of a numerous pieces that will be compose "Family legacy in wine across the centuries" exhibition, placed at Palazzo Antinori in the following months.

A brief history by Luciano Artusi

Historically Tuscan red wine came primarily from the area surrounding Chianti, Poggibonsi and Rufina, a small village on the outskirts of Florence that has always been known for its structured rich ruby red wines. As far back as the XIV century, the straw covered flask was the typical bottle for Tuscan wines.  This pear-shaped long-necked bottle contained one and three quarters liter of wine and the bottle itself was made of blown glass by flask makers. In the center of Florence, the corner of Via Condotta and Via dei Calzaioli was known as flask-makers junction because many of these craftsmen had their workshops and warehouses there. The flask maker not only made the glass bottle but also crafted the straw basket using swamp weeds such as “sala” or “rascello”:  the straw covering served as protection for the glass bottle during transportation and at the same time was thermal insulation so the wine inside didn’t spoil.  Flasks full of wine came into town from the countryside skillfully loaded “cesta” style, a pyramidal arrangement, on long carriages usually drawn by horses; the feat of arranging 2000 fragile flasks required ability and experience:  few master craftsmen were capable of building this architectural masterpiece.

When these imposing vessels loaded with flasks arrived into downtown Florence, the city streets echoed with the sounds of clattering hooves, the cracking of the whip and creaky brakes grinding to a halt:  unloading operations then began in front of the taverns and trattorias ;  at this point each flask was equipped with a tuft of oakum, pushed through the straw basket that was used to absorb the thin layer of oil that was added on purpose to the wine during bottling. In the era of the Florentine Republic, enormous pyramids of flasks were build every year on the 29th of September to celebrate the arrival of the new vintage: after receiving a blessing in the church in Via Calzaioli, the wine was brought into Piazza della Signoria where the Gonfaloniere toasted together with the Priors to the health of Florentine  community.

photo credits: Damiano Verdiani