Tasting Note: Badia a Passignano Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva 1998, Antinori

This Chianti was a classic indeed. Bearing the old vertical, Swiss Bank Note style label (a lot more interesting than the very classy current sepia version), my 1998 Badia, made from a 50-hectare vineyard on an estate bought by Piero Antinori in 1987, was brought out to celebrate an anniversary – and it was worth it.

Right from the opening, the wine showed well, with a nice, full garnet color, and classic (there’s that word again) aromas of cherries, cedar and tobacco, with well-integrated oak. After a couple of hours of decanting, the flavors had gained in intensity, if anything, while the cherry notes came out in full on tasting, on a lively acidity, yet with a velvety-smooth mouthfeel. Good length, with some toasty notes along the way.

A solid performer, the wine held its own beautifully with a couscous featuring chicken, lamb and yes, even some fairly spicy merguez. The ras-al-hanout spices (a touch of clove, cinnamon and pepper), along with the saffron in the broth balanced nicely with the cigar-box, slightly spicy touches of the wine. Leg of lamb with thyme and rosemary would have done great too, as well as a number of Italian classics of the pasta persuasion.

The interesting thing is that the wine was, if anything, still a little compact. I’m sure the wine could have gone on and shown beautifully for another five to ten years, and perhaps present a little more complexity and nuances over time.

Hey, I’m not complaining. Nobody at the table did. But as I’m sipping the very last drops, it’s a bit hard to say goodbye.

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