by Greg Steiner

    The Wines of Chianti

    Italian wines are some of the most versatile and food-friendly wines in the world. Among these wines, Chianti has been a popular choice for red wine lovers who like a strong, bold flavor. Chianti is a region in Tuscany where the dominant grape is Sangiovese. A Chianti wine must be produced with at least 80% Sangiovese, with the remaining 20% coming from the other grapes in the same vineyard (i.e., a field blend).

    Chianti captures everything Tuscan in a bottle. It is an invigorating ­experience and speaks of the harmony between Tuscany’s soil, sun, and people. It evokes images of rugged, rocky, sloping hillsides that are dotted with stone castles, spiraling Cypresses, golden wheat fields, and lush wine vineyards. Wines from Chianti embody dusty fruit flavors of rustic cherries combined with elegant minerality, fresh herbs, and warm acidity.

    The Legend of the Black Rooster

    If you look at a bottle of Chianti Classico, you will see the image of a black rooster, usually located on the neck of the bottle. Why is it there? Well, the legend of the black rooster goes back to a time when the cities of Florence and Siena had a land dispute. They fought over the area that is now the Chianti Classico zone. (Chianti Classico is where Chianti originated. It is one of eight Chianti zones and is located between ­Florence to its north and Siena to its south.) Both cities argued over their claim to the land that was located between them. The dispute waged on for years, and in the early 1200s, the leaders decided to settle the issue once and for all.

    They called in an arbitrator who came up with a competition that would permanently settle the question. On a designated day, each city would send their best horseman toward the other city. Where the two horsemen met would decide the boundary of each city. The signal for the start of the race would be a cock’s first morning crow.

    The leaders of Siena selected a fat, slovenly white rooster as its ­designated starting pistol. The people of Florence chose a black rooster which they did not feed before the race day. As a result, the Florentine rooster crowed much earlier than its Sienese counterpart. The legend says the black rooster crowed long before dawn because it was hungry, so the Florentine rider started much earlier than the Sienese rider. The rider from Siena only made it about 12 miles outside of Siena before he was met by the horseman from Florence and, therefore, Florence has much more land than Siena.

    In 1384, the Chianti League established a black rooster silhouetted in front of a golden field as their emblem. Now, that rooster emblem can be seen on all Chianti bottles.


    Greg Steiner

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