If you love Chianti, it’s likely that you’ve tried several versions of the wine. With so many amazing producers out there, how could you not?
Each vintage of Chianti offers something different.
You get to experience the dedication of individual producers and the effects their terroir has on the wine you’re drinking.
But for all of the subtle differences, there is one thing that is consistent regardless of which Italian wine producer you buy from…
The presence of a little black rooster on every bottle of Chianti.
That rooster has become the emblem of Chianti.
Seeing it on a bottle can give you confidence because it shows that you’re getting the real deal. For decades, that rooster has told you that the Italian wine you’re about to drink is of an enormously high quality.
But we know you have a question…
Why a rooster?
For a wine that stands at the pinnacle of the Italian industry, why would the common rooster be the selection?
It is a good question.
After all, there are so many other animals that you might think would naturally do a better job of showcasing Chianti’s quality. And there are certainly plenty of animals out there that seem more prestigious than a rooster.
In this article, we’re going to look into the history of Chianti’s famous black rooster to provide you with some insight into how this humble bird reached such a lofty position.
The Legend of the Rooster
To find out why the rooster has become the symbol of Chianti, we have to dive back into history.
That means going back to a time before Italy was the united country that it is today.
For centuries, Italy was essentially divided into warring colonies. Each of the major cities that now make up Italy were once independent states all loosely collected into what we know as Italy. Each had its own rules and rulers. And as always seems to be the way with humans, these states often went to war with each other for reasons related to power, territory, and trade.
The particular war we need to focus on occurred during the Middle Ages.
During this time, the republics of Florence and Siena had been engaged in a bloody and brutal conflict for many years. The losses on both sides were substantial and the war was being fought over a small strip of territory…
The Chianti region!
After many years of fighting, both sides grew tired of weakening themselves to gain hold of this land.
So, they came to an agreement.
The war would end.
But that agreement had a caveat.
After all, the Chianti region still wasn’t claimed successfully by either side. To determine who would get the land that so much blood had been shed for, the leaders of the two republics came up with an idea.
They’d have a unique competition that happened to involve roosters!
The legend goes that, on a specified day, a knight for each republic would be woken up by a rooster. Upon waking, they would ride from their hometown towards the Chianti region. The goal was to wake up as early as possible and ride like the wind to claim the region.
The rules of this competition stated that the borders between the two republics would be drawn at the point where the knights met. Whichever knight could pass through the Chianti region first would be able to claim it as his republic’s territory.
As part of the competition, each side had to choose its rooster.
The Sienese people chose a white rooster, which was tasked with waking its night before dawn. In an effort to make the rooster compliant, the Sienese fed it well and treated it to every comfort a humble bird could imagine.
The Florentine people went with a black rooster.
But unlike the Sienese, they treated their bird poorly. It was placed in a cage with no food, placing it in a constant state of agitation.
The day of the competition came.
The Sienese rooster, contented in the state of luxury it had been placed in, woke up long after dawn. Of course, this also meant that the Sienese knight set out long after dawn.
The Florentine knight?
His agitated and angry rooster woke up and started crowing long before dawn!
This gave him an enormous head start that ultimately allowed Florence to claim the Chianti territory. In fact, the head start was so vast that the two knights met just a few kilometres outside of Siena, which meant the Sienese lost even more territory than they’d anticipated.
Florence went on to become one of the most powerful and important Italian republics. Even today, it’s held up as one of the country’s most important cities, both from cultural and business perspectives.
Siena, as beautiful a city as it still is, unfortunately never quite reached Florence’s heights again.
And it’s all thanks to a starving black rooster and its angry crowing.
The Final Word
How true is this legend?
Unfortunately, we can’t say for sure that this event ever took place. It’s just as likely that the bloody war between Florence and Siena ended with Siena capitulating to the growing might of its opponent.
But we like to think this race between two knights and their roosters happened.
Whatever the case may be, the story was strong enough to inspire generations of Chianti producers.
Since the late 14th century, the black rooster has been the emblem of the Chianti region. And though it’s changed size and shape over the years, it has been found on every legitimate bottle of Chianti made ever since.
And so, our story concludes.
The reason the black rooster is one every bottle of Chianti is because it’s one of the most important animals in the history of Florence.
We’d like to think the crowing rooster was repaid for its service with a life of luxury to follow the difficult few days it endured.
But if nothing else, it will live on for as long as Chianti is produced.
Would you like to see the rooster for yourself?
At Xtrawine, we have many Chianti vintages available. Check out our online store and welcome the black rooster into your home today.