Una Famiglia, Due Tenute
The rooster has always held a certain fascination in the minds of humans: its aggressiveness, vigor, fantastic feathers, and proverbial cock-a-doodle-doo have found their way into numerous comments from literary to folklore, symbolism to alchemy, and even into technology. In ancient times, it was believed that the pre-dawn call of the rooster scared away the evil spirits of the night, when such demons have traditionally been most active, and signaled the arrival and safety of the sun.
Many religions, both ancient and modern, have stories or other aspects tied to the rooster. In Greek paganism, the rooster was consecrated to the sun god Apollo, and Mercury assumed the form of a rooster as the guide for souls. In Indian mythology, roosters are identified with the sun, whereas in Christianity, roosters are symbols of the resurrection and of the moment when Jesus reminds Peter that he will betray him.
Perhaps these “spiritual” precedents contributed to the legend of the Black Rooster, the symbol that has always distinguished Chianti Classico. 2016 is the symbol’s 300th anniversary since the borders of the Chianti zone have been defined.
The Black Rooster was a historic symbol of the old Military League of Chianti. It was even painted by Giorgio Vasari on the ceiling of the Cinquecento Salon in Palazzo Vecchio of Florence. Initially, it only symbolized the specific “Gallo Nero” subzone of Chianti; but soon the symbol became so representative of the entire region of Chianti wine production that it became the mascot for all Chianti Classico wines in 2005. And the consortium for Chianti Classico is historical: it was founded in 1924 in Radda in Chianti by a group of producers that reacted to a decree that essentially punished Chianti, negating the link between the denominations and geographical origins. The Consortium of Chianti Classico united with the goal of protecting and promoting the development of the Chianti territory according to the borders defined in 1716.
But let’s get to the good part: according to legend, during the medieval ages when Florence and Siena constantly fought over the Chianti land between them, the two cities became fed up with the constant battling and decided to resolve the dispute with a very interesting idea: they would choose a knight each, and the moment the knights heard the call of the rooster at daybreak, they were to ride out towards each other. Where they met, the territorial borders were to be defined. The idea was apparently to divide the territory more or less 50/50 and then stop the dispute. And if the two knights had departed at the same hour, they would indeed have met halfway. But things did not go exactly as both parties had planned. The Sienese chose a white rooster and fed him well on the day before, so that he’d awaken cheerfully, bright and early the next morning. The Florentines chose a black rooster that they starved and, upset and hungry, it began cawing much earlier than sunrise. The diligent knight heard and left before his competitor, thus covering much more ground before meeting the other knight at the Castle of Fonterutoli (today in Castellina in Chianti). Here, they signed the pact of peace and fixed the borders of their respective Tuscan territories—just a few kilometers from Siena.
In remembrance of this legend, the wine produced in this region was symbolized with the black rooster that allowed the region to own the land that makes their famous wine. The story, likely not historically accurate, explains the reason for which Florence was able to take control of the greater part of Chianti territory over their rival, almost up to Siena’s doorstep; Siena then fell under Cosimo I de’ Medici many years later (April 21, 1555).
WHAT HISTORY TELLS US
We will conclude in a more historically accurate manner. The first “public” appearance of the Black Rooster was in 1384, when the Republic of Marzocco created the League of Chianti, a sort of anti-Siena political-military pact that united a league of rural towns corresponding to the modern-day municipalities of Castellina in Chianti, Gaiole in Chianti, and Radda in Chianti. This Black Rooster with its red crest was found inside a caramel-colored shield against a golden-yellow background with diagonal cuts. The borders between Siena and Florence in the Chianti region were determined in 1932 by a ministerial decree. And as with the hero of any story, even the Black Rooster has its rival: Putto, the symbol of a consortium created in 1927 to counter the monopoly of associations in Radda after adopting a policy of broader territorial delimitation and adhering to the one sanctioned by market practices.