Monday night I took a wine class (through the U’s Continuing Education) with a friend from work. Our class was “Value Wines of Italy” and as we moved onto a Tuscan red (not, apparently, an “official” Chianti), the teacher asked, “Who knows what the straw-wrapped bottles of Chianti are called?”
And I had to remember all the times the Colonel in Across the River and Into the Trees asked the hotel staff in Venice for “a fiasco” of some wine or another, and that was indeed the answer.
The teacher went on to explain how most Americans’ first experience with Chianti was so bad that the term was adopted to mean “a complete failure”–which isn’t exactly what the dictionary tells me*, but sounded very charming and plausible when she said it.
*My dictionary says the term came about from the phrase “far fiasco,” literally “to make a bottle,” and was used in Italy to mean “complete failure” since the mid-19th century. Tomato, tomahto…both of which are very nice with Chianti.