What is Chianti Classico

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The Difference between Chianti & Chianti Classico

If you love Italian wines, you may have bought a bottle of Chianti Classico at some time. Did you notice the small black rooster logo on the neck of the bottle? What does it mean? Well first of all we need to define what Chianti Classico is.

The Chianti Classico black roostter logo

All Chianti wines belong to the highest Italian appellation known as the D.O.C.G. This is an initialism for “controlled and guaranteed denomination of origin.” The appellation regulates all aspects of the wine’s production; where the grapes are grown, what varieties go into the blend, where and how the wine is made, and the flavor profile. Most important of all, the D.O.C.G defines the quality standards.

So let’s define what exactly a Chianti is. Firstly we need to be aware that Chianti isn’t just a wine. It’s first and foremost a geographical region of Tuscany. In fact the wine takes its name from the region. However in the 1930’s most everyone from the neighboring areas was claiming to produce Chianti. Of course the official producers had plenty to object. The solution they came up with was to give the wines from the original historic production zone the appellation of “Chianti Classico.” Then they added another seven sub zones to the original area, but ruled that the wines from the new production zones be defined with just the name “Chianti.”

So Chianti Classico is the wine produced in the historic region of Chianti, while “Chianti” are the wines produced in one of the seven sub zones. The D.O.C.G regulations apply to both types, albeit with minor differences. However only Chianti Classico has the black rooster logo for instant identification.

So why the Black rooster?

It’s all based on the following legend. The Chianti Classico region is a large area of 270 sq miles situated between the cities of Florence and Siena. During the medieval period there was a territorial feud going on between the cities and each wanted to expand their borders To settle the dispute the two cities decide to settle the matter peacefully by picking a horse, a rider and a chicken and have a race.

Well not actually a chicken but a rooster. The legend states that at the crack of dawn, each city would send a rider into the territory, and wherever they met would be the boundary between the cities. Siena supposedly picked a white rooster and fattened him up, assuming he’d wake up earlier for more food. Florence was a bit savvier and crueler, selecting a black rooster which they had starved to encourage him to wake up earlier. And that’s exactly what happened. The hungry black rooster woke up early and the Florentine horseman set out long before the one from Siena. He covered much more ground and this is why most of the historic Chianti region is in the province of Florence, even to this day. Consequnetly the rooster was adopted as an official emblem by the League of Chianti in 1384, and subsequently by the Chianti Classic Wine Consortium in 2005.

By the way…the story is told by the Florentines who have always considered themselves the smartest population in the world. Of course the Sienese are the exact opposite!


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