A Black Rooster (Gallo Nero) with a gold background is chosen as a symbol by the Chianti League
The Black Rooster’s link with the territory has antique origins. A Black Rooster on a gold background was in fact chosen as the emblem of the Lega del Chianti, a political-military institution created by the Republic of Florence to control the territory of Chianti at the end of the fourteenth century.
Since then, this proud animal, which at a certain time must have actually flourished in the splendid hills of Chianti, has been the symbol of the territory.
The first notarial document to include the name ‘Chianti’
The history of Chianti Classico wine has always been intimately connected to that of its production zone: Chianti, a land of ancient traditions civilised in the remote past, first by the Etruscans (of whom many traces remains, also linked to wine) and then the Romans.
In the Middle Ages, Chianti was the battleground of continual fierce struggles between the cities of Florence and Siena, and during that period villages and abbeys, castles and strongholds were built, which would later be transformed into villas and residences in more peaceful times. This was when crops like vines and olives underwent a major development, progressively acquiring greater economic importance and international renown.
The first notarial document to refer to the wine produced in this zone as ‘Chianti’ dates back to 1398. Chianti – today, Chianti Classico – is also mentioned as a wine in a letter from 1404, from the owner of Vignamaggio to the merchant Datini. Documents from 1427 show that red wine had become established in the Chianti area due to its high quality.
In the 16th century wine from this area also began to be consumed by Popes: for example, Pope Paul III, on the recommendation of Sante Lancerio, a historian and geographer and, above all, the Pope’s personal cellarman.
In the 17th century Chianti wine was already being regularly exported to England, and from the 18th century, with Tuscany’s agricultural renaissance, sharecropping became the main farming system in Tuscany: most of the farmhouses and estates that still exist today date back to that period.
The Black Rooster is depicted in a painting by Giorgio Vasari in Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio
The Black Rooster painted by Giorgio Vasari is found in one of the 42 panels that distinguish the magnificent coffered ceiling of the Salone dei Cinquecento in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence: in the panel that represents the Allegory of Chianti.
The painter himself explained his work as follows: “That, Lord, is Chianti, with the rivers of the Pesa and the Elsa, with its horns full of fruit, and at their feet a Bacchus of more mature age for the excellent wines of that land; and in the distance I have portrayed Castellina, Radda and Brolio, with their illustrious ones; and the coat of arms in the shield held by that young man, representing Chianti, is a black rooster on a yellow field.” (Ragionamenti del Signor Giorgio Vasari sopra le invenzioni da lui dipinte in Firenze nel Palazzo Vecchio, con Francesco Medici allora Principe di Firenze, 1823 edition).
Definition of the boundaries of the Chianti (today, Chianti Classico) wine producing area
1716 was the year that Grand Duke of Tuscany Cosimo III set the boundaries of the production zone for Chianti wine, today’s Chianti Classico: an area between the cities of Florence and Siena in which the wine was cultivated, and already greatly appreciated.
The unbreakable connection between wine and land of origin was therefore formalised with a decree to determine ope legis which product could boast the now-famous name of Chianti, by establishing the following: “for Chianti this has been determined and shall be. From Spedaluzzo to Greve; from there to Panzano, with all the podesteria of Radda, which contains three parts, that is Radda, Gajole and Castellina, as far as the boundary with the state of Siena”.
But the legislator’s work did not end here: Cosimo also issued another decree in the same year, which established a surveillance group to watch over production, shipping, checking for fraud, and wine trading. Even at this time, the phenomenon of counterfeit Chianti wine production for export purposes – especially to England – was widespread. So it was a sort of ante litteram protective consortium.
This is why 1716 is, and always will be, fundamentally important for Chianti Classico wine: today it falls within the Gallo Nero trademark that identifies all the designation’s wines.
The ‘Iron Baron’s’ first recipe for Chianti wine
During the 19th century, wine production in the Chianti area could no longer remain exclusively linked to local and artisanal agriculture; its effect on trade relations had now made classification necessary, both to negotiate sales and in order to present it to consumers.
Mid-century, Baron Bettino Ricasoli definitively linked his name to the famous wine produced in this area. The most significant result of his experiences was that of having sought and found the correct blend of grape varieties to produce this high quality wine.
In 1872 Ricasoli wrote: “…I confirmed the results already obtained from the initial experiences, that is, that the wine (Chianti) receives from Sangiovese its main dose of aroma (for which I particularly aim) and a certain vigorous sensation; from canajolo, the sweetness that mitigates the hard quality of the former, without diminishing its aroma, with which this grape is also endowed; malvagia, which could even be excluded for wines destined for ageing, tends to dilute the product of the first two grapes, increases the flavour and makes it lighter and more suitable for use as a daily table wine”. Thus the first “recipe” for Chianti wine was created, highlighting the central importance of Sangiovese, the area’s main grape variety.
The foundation of the Consortium for the Protection of Typical Chianti Wine and its Brand Mark: the chosen symbol is the Black Rooster (Gallo Nero)
The need arose to protect and monitor the wine-growing area defined in 1716 and the wine known today as Chianti Classico produced within it: to this end, 33 wine growers from the area decided to form an association. On the 14th of May 1924, the Consortium for the Protection of Chianti Wine and its Brand Mark was created in Radda, as the first wine producers’ consortium to be established in Italy.
With remarkable foresight the members immediately chose an image that could represent them both in Italy and abroad: the Black Rooster (Gallo Nero), the historic symbol of the old Military League of Chianti.
The Consortium is founded with the Black Rooster chosen as its symbol
From that moment on, the Black Rooster, with the curious legend that credits it as the inspirer of Florence’s victory over Siena in the conquest of the prized domain of Chianti, became the symbol of excellence of wines produced in that unique area of Tuscany. The zone had already been delimited in 1716 by the proclamation known as the Bando di Cosimo III de’ Medici as being particularly suitable for the production of high quality wines.
The suffix “Classico” is added to distinguish the original Chianti from other wines produced outside the territory defined in 1716
From 1924-1967 the Consortium underwent long and troublesome administrative and legal battles to obtain exclusive recognition: in other words, that the wines originating from the Chianti area should be distinct from other wines made in different areas of Tuscany.
An early result came in 1932 when aministerial decree identified seven separate production zones for Chianti wine: the wine produced within the geographical boundaries of Chianti is permitted to use the adjective “Classico” to distinguish itself from the others, in recognition of its territoriality, originality, authenticity and primogeniture, well before the introduction of the designated zone of origin system.
Chianti Classico obtains DOCG (Controlled and Guaranteed Designation of Origin)
The use of 100% Sangiovese grapes is authorised in the Chianti Classico production regulations
In the last quarter of a century Chianti Classico wine has grown in fame both in Italy and abroad. Today it is distributed in over 130 countries worldwide.
This is the result of careful and thorough management of the designation and the production territory which has led, amongst other things, to a progressive improvement in the quality of Gallo Nero wines.
Included in this framework are the various modifications to the production specifications of Chianti Classico over time. The various drafts have changed the rules both for vineyard management and for wine production such as, for example, planting density, yields per hectare (today the lowest in the Italian DOCG overview) and, most importantly of all, the blend.
In particular, from 1996 the use of 100% Sangiovese grapes was authorised in recognition of its central importance to Chianti Classico wine.
Chianti Classico becomes an independent DOCG
However the Chianti Classico producers did not abandon their fight to see the original and exclusive nature of the wines recognised, and after a seventy-year journey, the decree of 5th August 1996 made Chianti Classico an autonomous DOCG at last, with separate production regulations from Chianti wine.
Since then, Chianti and Chianti Classico have been two distinct designations with different specifications and separate production zones.
The Consortiums are reunited and the Black Rooster becomes the symbol of all Chianti Classico wines
Over the years, the Black Rooster trademark depicted the history of the Consortium and, as such, underwent various restylings until 2005, when the Black Rooster image as the Consortium’s emblem became the univocal symbol of all Chianti Classico wine and was included in the Fascetta di Stato neck label on all bottles of the denomination.
Since then, the Black Rooster trademark has become increasingly important in communications and promotions of Chianti Classico DOCG.
The Black Rooster (Gallo Nero) becomes the trademark of the Chianti Classico designation
White grapes banned from the Chianti Classico blend (from the 2006 vintage)
Legislation introduced to ban the production of Chianti wine in the Chianti Classico territory
The brand of the Black Rooster is the subject of a graphic reinterpretation
In 2013, the Black Rooster trademark was subject to a further graphic revision making it more visible and recognizable. Though no longer included in the Fascetta di Stato, it must be shown on every bottle of Chianti Classico whether on the main label, neck label or back label. The choice of the Black Rooster, back in 1924, was a felicitous intuition of Chianti wine producers, since it came to express, over the years, their determination to defend and promote the wine and the territory through a successful image, transforming a legendary symbol into a charismatic and winning trademark, known throughout the world.
A new series of modifications to the production regulations: the creation of Chianti Classico Gran Selezione
The last important modification to the Chianti Classico production regulations came in 2013, and was defined as a real reorganisation of the designation. The most striking news was the introduction of a new type, Gran Selezione, alongside the existing Annata and Riserva, taking its place at the top of the quality pyramid for Gallo Nero wines.
But the history of Chianti Classico doesn’t end here. The Consortium decision-making bodies are already working on new projects which will soon result in increased promotion of the designation, with a view to further intensification of the wine-territory combination which, as history has shown, is a fundamental asset for Gallo Nero wines.