Why does Chianti Classico use a black rooster emblem?
Having been to Chianti a few times, I’ll freely admit that I can’t remember there being an overpopulation of roosters running the roads or bringing my mornings alive with a chorus of cock-a-doodle-doos. Maybe I’m a heavy sleeper. Anyway, at first glance around the region you’d think there’d be plenty of other more iconic Chianti-esque symbols to slap on a sign. My vote would go to the Cypress tree — you can’t swing a rooster without hitting one.
While you can dismiss them as fake news, the internet offers a number of variations on the now classic story of why the black rooster is so revered in Chianti. The best one involves the historic feud between the cities of Florence and Siena. Sitting on either side of the region, the two had been fighting over who owns what real estate for centuries.
From a modern perspective, Florence and Siena are very close to each other. Today it would take less than 90 minutes by car to make the 70 kilometre trek from one to the other. Back in the 13th century, when the rivalry was at its apex, the trip would have seemed like it took forever. A competition to see who could do it the fastest was agreed upon to officially decide where one city’s boundary began and the other’s ended.
Rather than an all-out horse race, both Florence and Siena chose a rider who, at the crack of dawn on the designated day, would take off at top speed towards the opposite city. Where the two met would decide where the border line would be drawn.
Here’s where the bird comes in. Rather than assign a human to prod each rider into action, the task was assigned to, you guessed it, roosters. Siena supposedly chose a fat white one assuming its gluttony would get it up bright and early. Over in Florence, they starved a black one, hoping its malnourishment would spur it into action as soon as the first rays of light appeared.
It turned out that the hunger game worked. The black rooster crowed first; giving the Florentine competitor a huge edge on his rival and allowing him to cover way more territory before the inevitable hook-up some 12 kilometres from Siena’s front door.
With most of Chianti now under its control, Florence designated their feathered hero the symbol of their territory or what we know call Chianti Classico.