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Rooster tale defined Chianti Classico

Just home from Italy with pages of notes and findings, I aim over the next few weeks to offer helpful information about the sometimes confusing and misunderstood Chianti Classico region.

A question I’m often asked is, “What does the black rooster on the neck of the bottle represent?”

It denotes that a company is a member of the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico. That consortium’s mission is protecting, overseeing and maintaining the prices of the Chianti Classico denomination. Exactly how the rooster was chosen comes with a legend.

In the Middle Ages, when the republics of Florence and Siena were fiercely battling for territory in the Chianti region, they came up with a novel method to end that exhausting conflict. It was agreed that two knights would set out from their respective cities and establish the border wherever they met. Departure was to be at dawn and the starting signal at each end would be a cock’s crow.

In those days, daily rhythms were still paced by natural phenomena, so the choice of rooster would be more crucial than either knight or steed. The Sienese chose a white rooster, the Florentines a black one, which they kept in a pen in the dark with no food for days, putting the poor thing in high distress.

On the day of departure, as soon as the black rooster was released from its prison, it began to crow long before dawn. The Florentine knight departed immediately while the Sienese rider had to wait until dawn, when his white rooster crowed.

The Sienese knight rode only about 7 1/2 miles before meeting the Florentine knight far short of the halfway point between Siena and Florence.

Thus, thanks to the black rooster, practically all of Chianti came under the control of the Florentine republic. And thus the emblem of the black rooster on Chianti Classico labels.

THE VALUES

  • 2009 Cecchi Chianti Classico, Italy (about $14 retail)
  • 2009 Straccali Chianti Classico, Italy (about $14 retail)

THE SPLURGES

  • 2009 Castello D’Albola Chianti Classico, Italy (about $19 retail)
  • 2009 Rocca Delle Macie Chianti Classico, Italy (about $28 retail)
  • 2009 Piccini Chianti Classico, Italy (about $19 retail)