The legend of Gallo Nero and Chianti Classico: Wine, history, tales

Do you know the legend of the “Gallo Nero” (Black Rooster) that you see on precious bottles of Chianti Classico? It has been the same for decades and was graphically redesigned a few years ago in a modern version.

The legend of Gallo Nero

This was the historic emblem of the antique “Lega Militare” of Chianti, reproduced by the artist Giorgio Vasari, in his “Allegory of Chianti” on the ceiling of the “Salone del ‘500” in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. The legend says that during Medieval times, Florence and Siena fought for the Chianti territory because it was halfway between the two cities. It was a continuous dispute.

To end the fighting and establish a definite border, a singular system was adopted. Two horsemen left their respective capitals at the same time and would meet at the border, which would be fixed at the meeting point.

They had to leave at dawn and the starting signal was the song of the rooster. The choice of the rooster was important for the preparation of the event even more than the horseman and his ride. The Sienese chose a white rooster, and the Florentines chose a black one which they kept in a small area on an empty stomach in an effort to make the rooster exasperated.

The day of departure, as soon as the black rooster was set free, he began to sing loudly even though dawn was still far away.

Therefore, his song allowed the horseman from Florence to depart with a big advantage over his Sienese adversary, who still had to wait for dawn’s first light for his rooster to sing and allow him to depart. Since the white rooster left much later than his challenger, the Sienese horseman met up at Fonterutoli with the other horseman after only 12 kilometers. In this manner, almost all of Chianti went under control of the Florentine Republic, much before the actual fall of Siena.

The boundaries of Chianti Classico

Eight Townships (Radda, Gaiole, Castellina in Chianti, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Greve in Chianti, San Casciano, Tavarnelle, Barberino Val d’Elsa, plus a very small portion of Poggibonsi), four in the province of Florence, four in the province of Siena, with a “Gallo Nero” (black rooster) as symbol.This is Chianti Classico, the wine par excellence of this territory.

And if you think that Chianti and Chianti Classico are the same thing, you are wrong. We will explain why. Because to appreciate this territory at its fullest, it is imperative to know the difference between the two.

There has been idiomatic-geografic confusion between the two types of DOCG, Chianti Classico and Chianti, for some time,” explains the Consortium of Vino Chianti Classico. Although in wine-making the 2 terms, Chianti Classico and Chianti, exist, there is only the term, Chianti, from an historic-geografic point of view.”

“For the consumer, as well as for those who make the wine, the difference between these two terms gets lost. The result if that too often the suffix, ‘Classico’, is left off and the wine is called simply, Chianti. In reality, the suffix is extremely important, because it distinguishes Chianti Classico from Chianti wine; they are 2 different DOCG, with one discipline but each with a production zone and Consortium with different rules.”

300 years ago

Going back 300 years…it was 1716 when the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo lll established the borders of the Chianti production zones with an edict. This was an area which included the zone between Florence and Siena, where the wine was produced. At the beginning of the 20th century, when Chianti wine became more famous year by year and the production territory no longer could satisfy both national and international demand, the growth of the wine flourished.

At the beginning, a wine was produced outside of the zone defined in 1716 and was still called Chianti or “wine produced as Chianti.” In 1924, it producers founded the Consortium to defend the typical wine of the area and its label and made rules for its production.

When did the term “Classico” come about? in 1932, through a specific ministerial decree, this suffix was added in order to distinguish Chianti which was produced in its original zone.

Chianti and Chianti Classico….today

Since then, “Chianti” is that which is produced outside of the geografic area named Chianti. In various zones, a name is added: (Chianti Rufina, Chianti Colli Senesi, Chianti Colli Aretini, Chianti Colli Pisani), while Chianti Classico is wine produced in the original Chianti territory. Chianti Classico is produced with at least 80% of Sangiovese grapes (sometimes 100%).

To Chianti Classico blends, some red grapes can be added, starting with autochtonous grapes like Canaiolo Nero and Colorino, but some international grapes like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvisnon may be added as well. Today, Chiant Classico is produced in 3 typologies, the so-called “qualitative pyramid”, Annata, Riserva, and Gran Selezione.