Of course I first heard the story of the black rooster, the internationally known symbol of Chianti, from Antonio Molesini. A native of Tuscany, Antonio's version is one I will never forget and those of you who know him understand the comical nature of his story telling. The Black Rooster symbol is a huge source of pride for locals and it's origin is the stuff legends are made from.
It came down to a horse race. In the Middle Ages, the constant feuding between Siena and Florence made the area between them (now Chianti Classico) a continual battle zone. Finally coming to an agreement that the fighting over the land must end they decided to hold a horse race with a rider coming from each Florence and Siena and the spot where the two met would define the borders of each of the republics.
Well being the Middle Ages, there was no way of communicating over that 35 mile distance when the race would begin. So they decided that the riders would set out at dawn and the signal for the race to begin would be the crowing of a rooster announcing the new day. The Senesi chose a white rooster while the Florentines a black one. Of course, it wouldn't be a legend without a little trickery and those crafty Florentines decided to keep their bird hungry in a small covered cage. On the long-awaited day of the race, the famished rooster began to crow loudly as soon as it was removed from its pen, although it was still some time before dawn. The galloping rider from Florence got a big head start, covering a lot of ground while the rider from Siena was still awaiting his rooster to crow at first light. Needless to say, the Florentine rider met the horseman from Siena just 7 miles outside of the city near the castle of Fonterutoli and as a result, the majority of the territory came into the hands of the Republic of Florence.
After that legendary horse race, that starving Black Rooster became the symbol of the League of Chianti within the Republic of Florence and it has been immortalized on every bottle of Chianti Classico since!