home FOOD AND WINE, TRAVEL From Gallo Nero to DOCG: the Story of Chianti Classico

From Gallo Nero to DOCG: the Story of Chianti Classico

Lucy David


According to Tuscan native Galileo Galilei (1564–1642), “Wine is sunlight, held together by water”. He may well have been speaking of Chianti Classico, the veritable original of the Chianti clan, which carves out its territory between Florence and Siena.

Since 1924, this production zone covering 14 municipalities has been protected by the Chianti Classico Wine Consortium, founded to protect the integrity of the Chianti Classico label. Chianti is classified into different denominations depending on the area in which it is produced, and in order to qualify for DOCG (controlled and guaranteed denomination of origin) status, strict rules must be adhered to.

Chianti Classico wine must contain grapes grown within the production zone and comprise 80–100 percent Sangiovese and up to 20 percent of approved local and international varieties. True Chianti Classico is noted for its ruby-red color, limpidity, floral aroma combined with red fruits, with a harmonious, dry and tannic flavor and a minimum alcohol content of 12 percent. Chianti Classico Riserva (Reserve) may exhibit fine and spicy notes and contain a minimum of 12.5 percent alcohol.

According to legend, the so-called gallo nero or black rooster became a symbol of the Chianti region after a horse race was organized by the two rival republics of Siena and Florence to decide their official borders.

A cockcrow was established as the departure signal for the two horsemen in their respective cities; however Florence tricked Siena by starving its black rooster so that it began crowing before sunrise, enabling the Florentine rider to set off well in advance of his Sienese rival. The Florentine met his opponent a mere 12 kilometers from Siena, thereby winning the Chianti region for Florence.

The black rooster became a symbol of the League of Chianti in the Middle Ages and Gallo Nero is now the official mark of the Chianti Classico Wine Consortium, one of the most renowned wine brands in the world.

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