Check out the new, mobile-friendly WineSpectator.com!
Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
Do you know what these are called? They’re Italian 1950ish, we think.
—Jak, via Twitter
Thanks for sending me a photo of what looks like a covered purple laundry basket with a ginormous wine bottle inside. That’s what’s known as a “demijohn,” or damigiana in Italian. Home fermenters might also know it as a “carboy”—it’s a big, water-cooler-shaped bottle that can hold anywhere from 5 to 15 gallons.
These large bottles with narrow, usually short necks are traditionally used either as fermentation containers or as a way to transport liquid. It’s not unusual to see them enclosed in wicker, which both offers the bottle some protection and gives it some useful handles.
Which reminds me—did you know that traditionally sized wine bottles, usually Italian, partly covered with straw baskets are called fiascos? Isn’t that a great name? The straw was used to protect the glass bottles and also give them a way to stand upright, back when wine bottles were hand-blown, with round bottoms. Nowadays, fiascos are mostly just decorative.
Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...
Learn to taste wine like a pro, pull a cork with flair, get great wine service in a restaurant and more
Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions
New! Ratings Flash | New! Unfiltered