Dievole's blog

8 Quirky, historic and legendary tales of Tuscan wines

Do you know… what the story of the black rooster is, or how many litres of wine Medieval Sienese drank? Tuscan wine is full of legendary tales, quirky and fun historic facts. We’ve gathered eight of them for you here.

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A black rooster on Dievole’s property

1) The earliest reference to Florentine wine retailers dates to 1079, and a minor guild of wine vendors was created in 1282. However, there where restrictions on selling the sweet nectar: the Arte dei Vinattieri guild imposed rules including no wine to be sold within 100 yards (91m) of a church and wine merchants were also prohibited from serving children (under 15), prostitutes and thieves!

2) Red wines are king in Tuscany! More than 80% of Tuscany’s production is red wine, especially from Sangiovese grapes, and it’s been like this for a long time. References to famed Vino Nobile di Montepulciano date back to the late 14th century. In the Middle Ages an average of 30 million liters of wine was sold every year in Florence alone.

3) Old world production techniques are still used today in Tuscany, with a respect for the land and a passion to produce quality wines. At Dievole this means that grapes are hand picked, we don’t use any chemical fertilizers, and everywhere in Chianti Classico territory irrigation is outlawed. Old world doesn’t mean a lack of technology and modern thinking, but simply that being in synergy with Mother Nature and treating her with respect is what makes a great wine.

4) The first official taster of Tuscan wine dates back to the 15th century near San Gimignano. Yes, that’s right, there was an official job to taste-test the wines of Tuscany, a role created by the Medici family who ruled Florence and its surroundings during this time. They adored the local Vernaccia of San Gimignano so much that they enlisted two tasters to try them and then send the best bottles back to the capital for their personal consumption.

5) Ever wondered why there is a Black rooster on Chianti Classico wine labels? Urban legend has it all down to a competition between rivals Florence and Siena. Wishing to settle provincial borders, which has been under dispute, the two towns were challenged to a duel: two horsemen, one representing each town, would depart when the roosters crowed at dawn, galloping down the road which linked both towns. Where to two should meet would be the new, official borderline of Florence and Siena provinces. It’s said the Sienese looked after their white rooster to ensure it was healthy and crowed on cue; as for the Florentines, they kept their black rooster under lock and key, so when they let it out of its cage, it was so thrilled for its liberation that it crowed before dawn, giving the Florentine horseman a head start. Indeed, the Florentine horseman traveled almost 45 km from Florence; the Sienese rider made it only 19 km from Siena’s city walls. These borders remain today, while the black rooster story was immortalized by becoming the symbol of the League of Chianti back in 1384.

6) There is an Italian saying, “L’acqua fa male e il vino fa cantare” (Water makes you sick and wine makes you sing), and it seems this was taken literally; it’s estimated that in the 14th century the Sienese drank 419 liters each per year! Although the karaoke-inspiring properties of wine could sometimes be fun, the medieval consumption of wine over water came down to the lack of reliably clean and safe drinking water, to the point that monks were also given a daily ration of wine with their meals – because water might “fa male”.

7) The traditional bottle for Chianti, with a circular base encased in a straw basket, is called a fiasco. In English this word translates to mean a disaster, used when chaos ensures. Could this term be derived from the Italian word perhaps? For after drinking a fiasco of Chianti wine all anything is possible? There is no documentation to support this idea but legend has it there is a real connection between the two.

8) A lot of wineries today have histories that go back to the Middle Ages, and are noted as territories for wine making at that time. The vines have been renewed but the traditions remain. For example, Dievole first officially appeared in contract dated 1090 in which Rodolfino and Vinizio paid two capons, three loaves of bread and six silver Lucca denari for this land.