We all know the rooster crows at dawn. In fact, if you’ve ever stayed in the hills of Tuscany you have probably heard it. But, what does that have to do with the Chianti Classico Black Rooster label? Actually, quite a lot.
Legend has it that once upon a time a black rooster crowed early (as in before dawn) and as a result became the symbol of Italy’s great Chianti Classico wine. The tale is one that would leave PETA reeling.
A Medieval Seinfeld vs Newman
Back in the Medieval days Florence and Siena fought. A lot. In the 13th and 15th centuries both cities expanded significantly in economic and military power. The resulting physical growth could only go so far given one’s proximity to the other. The point of contention regarding the hills of Chianti came to a head in the early 1200s when the warring sides opted for a more creative way to establish the respective borders.
Each city selected a horseman and a rooster for the exercise. Riders were to depart their city on horseback in the morning “at the cry of the cock”; where they met determined the borders and ultimately ownership of the wine region.
The strategies employed by the respective cities were quite different. The Sienese used a well-fed white rooster as their starting gun. They theorized that a fat-and-happy rooster would produce a strong and pronounced crow. The Florentine opted to starve their black rooster in hopes it would crow early from hunger. For those of you with children, animals, or females in the house with frequent low-blood sugar (see: me) I think you know where this story is going. Not surprising, the Florentine rider was off well before sunrise while the white rooster wasn’t up till dawn.
Check and Mate
When the two riders met the Sienese was less than 20 kilometers into his journey. Thus, the bulk of the Chianti Classico region went to Florence. The moral of the story: pain is temporary, pride lasts forever. Because of the poor guy’s pain the black rooster is immortalized as a symbol of wine excellence. (Chill animal lovers, I’m not condoning cruelty to our furry friends.)
But, what does the Chianti Classico Black Rooster really mean?
Wine classified with the Chianti Classico Black Rooster must adhere to strict government regulations, including:
- Minimum 80% Sangiovese (20% other varieties).
- Blending can no longer include white grapes (yes, you read that right ‘no longer’; white in red was once a thing; same story in the Roero region of Piedmont).
- Minimum 12% alcohol.
- Chianti Classico Riserva must be aged 24 months before released to market.
Visiting Chianti Classico
The first time I heard the tale of the Chianti Classico Black Rooster was on a visit to Tuscany in 2010. I took a 2-hour Intro to Tuscan Wine class at The Tuscan Wine School while I was staying in Siena. They offer regional wine tasting courses throughout the week in their Siena and Florence locations. Currently the Florence location is closed for the season and will reopen in April 2015.
Rebecca from The Tuscan Wine School provided a list of producers to visit if you are planning a trip to Chianti (schedule appointments in advance):
The listed wineries are all in the Chianti Classico Black Rooster designated area. Make sure to also check out The Tuscan Wine School for some wine and education – that’s my kind of school!
Don’t miss our Tuscany Travel Guide