Roosters and Chianti wines

I am taking notes furiously and can’t wait to share them from this trip.   A fun piece of wine trivia to get us started is about the “black rooster” on labels from the Chianti Classico wines.  I was always told the practical and political reasons behind the labeling but loved hearing the legend from the poised accent of an Italian winemaker.

In the middle ages, when the republics of Florence and Siena were fiercely battling for territory between Chianti they constructed a bizarre method to end this continuous conflict.  It was agreed that two knights would set out from their respective cities and establish the border where they would meet.  Departure was to be at dawn and the starting signal given by a cock’s crow.  A coherent decision at the time, when daily rhythms were still paced by natural phenomena.  And so the choice of rooster would be more decisive to event preparations than either knight or steed.  The Sienese chose a white one, the Florentines a black, which they kept in a pen in the dark with no food for days, where the poor thing obviously was in a panic.

On the fateful day of departure, as soon as the black rooster was released from its prison it began to crow, long before dawn.  Its crowing allowed the Florentine knight the advantage to depart immediately while the Sienese had to wait until dawn when his white rooster would crow signaling his departure.   He only rode about 7 ½ miles before meeting the Florentine knight very quickly.

It was because of the black rooster legend all of Chianti came under the control of the Florentine republic… and of course a well told story behind the emblem of the black rooster on Chianti Classico labels.