This story always amuses me when I explain Chianti to my Italian Wine Scholar students.
In 1987 the Consorzio del Chianti Classico
changed its name to Consorzio del Gallo Nero (Black Rooster) was split into Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico, charged with the quality control of the wine produced in Chianti Classico, and Consorzio del Gallo Nero (Black Rooster), focused on promotion and marketing activities, to avoid conflict of interest. That of the Black Rooster is a legend according to which Firenze and Siena, which were constantly battling during the Middle Ages for the dominion of Toscana, decided at some point to settle their dispute with a challenge.
The challenge was the following: on a given morning, at the rooster’s crow, one rider would start riding from Firenze and another one would start riding from Siena. The point where the two would have met would have become the new border of the two communes. Obviously the city with the faster rider would have been awarded with a bigger chunk of land.
However the fiorentini came up with a cunning idea: they decided to starve their rooster for some days, so on the morning of the challenge the poor animal, now very hungry, woke up very early, much earlier than the rooster in Siena. The rider from Firenze was thus able to start early than that from Siena, gaining a bigger portion of territory than the rival.
The Gallo Nero legend had been known for centuries and the black rooster symbol had been used by the producers of the Consorzio Chianti Classico for decades, to distinguish themselves from the “extended” Chianti producers, those outside the real Chianti area, but entitled to use the name Chianti on the label.
change of name to Consorzio del Gallo Nero in 1987 name of the newly born Consorzio del Gallo Nero became matter of contention when the Consorzio tried to spread its name in the US. There was in fact another actor claiming exclusive trademark rights to the word “gallo”. It was E. & J. Gallo: the company, founded right after the end of Prohibition by Ernest and Julio, sons of Italian immigrants, had been using the word Gallo on their wines since they had registered it in 1933, and complained that the Consorzio and their Gallo Nero wording was going to confuse the consumers and to capitalize on a brand name that was already popular to the American consumer thanks to their efforts.
The Consorzio initially complied, but in 1989 began another marketing campaign in the US, which led to a lawsuit whose details you can read here.
In short, the US District Court for the Northern District of California sided with E. & J. Gallo and the Consorzio had to stop using the words “Gallo Nero” on their members’ label, although the black rooster symbol was still allowed. The Consorzio was not new to the issue, as they had already opposed E. & J. Gallo when the company had tried to register their trademark in the United Kingdom. However they had to face defeat: to avoid further controversy the name was changed to “Consorzio del Marchio Storico – Chianti Classico” in 1992 and finally
to “Consorzio del Vino Chianti Classico” the Consorzio was reabsorbed within the Consorzio del Vino Chianti Classico in 2005.
E. & J. Gallo would have kept defending their name from other “roosters” in the years to come, like when they ordered Friulan winemaker Gianfranco Gallo to stop using his surname on his wines. The winery, overwhelmed by the challenge from such a big company, would finally change its name to Vie di Romans.
There’s room for only one Gallo in the kitchen!