Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Gallo Nero

Pour a glass and pull up a chair! In our eager anticipation for the upcoming Grape Escape hosted by Cynthia at Muse Swings and Lavinia Ladyslipper at the Birdbath ChroniclesBlicky and I thought we'd crack open a nice bottle of Chianti and tell some stories we learned from Blicky's Italian friend, no he's not Joe Sixpack, he's Giovanni Damigiana. Not translating for you? Probably not, because most of the working class Joes I met in Tuscany were (*gasp*) socialists. Ruuuuunnn! Hide the children! Here's a damigiana:

 You lug it home (getting un ernia in the process) and bottle it yourself. It holds a few months worth of wine, or a month for the truly sodden and committed. After capping about thirty bottles, Giovanni Damigiana told us a wonderful tale about Chianti.

The story hearkens back to the medieval days when the Ghibellines (behind their swallow tail crenelations) warred with the Guelfs. Italy was not yet Italy, but an unruly conglomerate of city-states presided over by petulant and ostentatious dukes and lords. The Italian language had come into use only recently when Dante wrote the Divine Comedy, establishing the Florentine dialect as standard Italian.

The Florentines and the Sienese had been locked in a long, often bloody territorial struggle. It was finally decided that the dispute would be settled in the fairest way possible. A party of men would depart from each city at dawn when the cock crowed and the point at which they met would constitute the border between their territories. Now the Florentines, being an extraordinarily clever people, had a beautiful rooster ready to serve this most important task. They took this black bird and starved it half to death in the days leading up to the contest. When it was at last the appointed night the poor creature woke up in the middle of the night, screaming for food. The Florentines lost no time setting out. They met at Fonterutoli, which is only about 12 kilometers from Siena. All the area that they acquired through their ruse became known as the gallo nero region; some of the best wine growing land in Italy.

You can always tell a good Chianti from the black rooster, or gallo nero on the bottle. The red background indicates a good, solid Chianto Classico, and a gold background indicates the higher quality Riserva. In order to bear the gallo nero, vineyards must adhere to stringent standards. We here in the states often associate wine with privilege and culture, so I was surprise when Giovanni Damigiana just looked at the alcohol content to see whether the wine was good. "Oh 13, must be good." For those who really want to taste the best, the Brolio Ricasoli is the standard by which all the other Chianti wines are judged. But if you're like me, you'll just look for a high alcohol content and a black bird. Now for our toast: "Qui non beve in compania รจ un ladro o una spia." (He who doesn't drink in the company of others is either a thief or a spy.) Hey Blicky, why aren't you having any?


*mary* said...

Hmmm, perhaps that is why my neighbors' rooster is crowing at early, odd hours. But hopefully they just forgot to feed it, and they aren't plotting some nefarious land-stealing scheme of their own.

MuseSwings said...

Thank you for the good word about our Grape Escape! I'm delighted that you and Blicky will be there -especially since Blick obviously knows the proper method for cutting grapes from the vine. He'll be a great help at the Muserino Vineyards. This is a wonderful post! What I know about wines would partially fill a 3x5 index card if I print big. Now I can fill in the other half of the card. I'll dash off and find a good bottle of chianti to go with my fava beans at dinner tonight. fafafafafa!

Lavinia said...

Highly informative and entertaining post. Ah, Chianti, the very taste of Italy! (that and Campari, Amaretto, grappa....okay that's enough!).

I really like your illustrations in this post. Our day in Italy is going to be so much fun. So glad you're along for it all, and rest assured I will give you one of the best 'cameras' in my apartment in Rome!

Poetikat said...

"just look for a high alcohol content and a black bird"

Would you settle for 11% and a white pig?

I can't do high alcohol (any more) I'm afraid, or else I'll have one of my "spells". Cynthia knows whereof I speak. It's just not worth the night-sweats. Although, I suppose, I'll be up all night anyway, so what the heck! Bring on the forte vino!


Nanny Goats In Panties said...

Is this true? Just look for a black bird, gold background, and high alcohol content? But, that's so .... EASY! Plus, I'll never forget it. My 5th grade flute teacher was a black bird with a gold background and a high alcohol content.
And.... I saw you joined us on the Nanny Goats Torture Ride and Fun Park. Welcome!

Cassoulet Cafe said...

Great post!!!! I never knew how to pick a Chianti.
And your post of Italy has me remembering our trip there, and the food...I'm hungry.

Nana Trish is Living the Dream said...

Blicky, I'm so excited about our trip to Italy with the gang. I'm so happy you are also going. Avery and I will be getting the music and art together. We must be entertained and of course, we all need to see beautiful art. I can't wait for Avery to meet Blicky. I hope you have a great week. trish

Anna Lefler said...

You know, I typically have a strict policy against "learning" anything "erudite" on anyone's "blog," and yet...when I visit Casa de Blicky I always stagger happily away afterward with the nagging but not unpleasant "feeling" that I've had "knowledge" imparted to me.

I dig it.

petra michelle; Whose role is it anyway? said...

A taste "pun intended" of what the day will hold! I've never picked or seen anyone picking grapes. A fascinating and tasty post.
In the comedy "Sideways" with Paul Giamatti one is left with the respect and love of the grape and wine.
Blicky, since I've never attended such an occasion, is it all day? Is there a certain time it begins? Do we meet at Cynthia's?
Please excuse my ignorance but don't want to assume anything, and find out I had it all wrong. Thank you. And again, I'm looking forward to meeting everyone and having "una festa meravigliosa!"
Petra :))

Anonymous said...

Great story, for a great grape. I am amazed at what we have in common... But now I worried if we were next door neighbors. Teehee! More like drinking buddies :)

Me love me Nebbiolo. Have Barolo will travel! Another wonderful grape.

Now you have me thirsty... me needs to open a bottle!

Wonderful post!

Blicky Kitty said...

Guard your territories vigilantly Mary!
And Cynthia, Dr. Lecter was right, fafafafava beans are really yummy with onions, good olive oil and fresh bread.Thanks LaviniaI'm looking forward to it too.
Kat I guess 11% and a white pig would do, but definitely not a red mutton and 10%.
Yummm Barolo Dharma! I thought I kept getting glimpses of fairy wigs that year. :)