Toscana is the most important wine-producing region in central Italy. Known as Etruria in antiquity, the region maintained a political and economic strength that has kept Tuscan wines at the forefront since medieval times. Thanks to meticulous records kept by Florentine bankers between the 11th and 14th centuries, when Italians were migrating in record numbers to the cities, we know the importance of wine in their everyday lives. In 1282, the wine guild Arti Dei Vinattieri was formed and soon after created strict guidelines insisting on cleanliness and exact regulations1.
For example, a wine shop could not cater to children less than 15 years of age and had to be located at least 100 yards from a church. Tuscany was then known for a red wine called vino vermihlio. In the late 14th century, there is a mention of Brunello from the town of Montalcino, and the two whites Vernaccia and Trebbiano. Dante refers to Vernaccia when describing Pope Martin IV purging himself in purgatory2.
For years the symbols that represent Tuscany in the western world have been the typical Chianti bottle ("fiasco") and the black cock ("gallo nero"). In the Etruscan language, "clante" meant water, which later became Chianti. Origins of the "gallo nero" are seeded in the 13th century, when the republics of Florence and Siena disputed over territorial frontiers and sent knights toward each other on horseback. The border was marked when their respective cocks crowed (Siena had a white cock and the Florentines had a black one). The confine was established at Castellina, a few kilometers from Siena. Later, the black cock became the symbol of the "Lega del Chianti."
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1 Robinson, Jancis. The Oxford Companion to Wine. Oxford University Press, N.Y., N.Y. 1994 (p.721)
2 Robinson, Jancis. The Oxford Companion to Wine. Oxford University Press, N.Y., N.Y. 1994 (p.721)