Sensing the Sensi

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Walter Hagen, the first superstar of American golf evidently said, “You’re only here for a short visit. Don’t hurry, don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.” How true. In some ways, I prefer smells of wine and food to actually consuming them. Before I first smell a glass of wine, I try to recall my mental list of what it’s supposed to smell like. Shiraz, for example invariably greets you with peppery smells of olives and dark fruit. Gamay, the leading grape of Beaujolais region of France introduces itself with strawberry and raspberry, sometimes even aromas of boiled sweets or wax crayons. Merlot brings herby earthy aromas, with dark fruits and sometimes even moist tobacco. In contrast, Riesling comes with mineral-like flinty aromas laced with green apples and sometimes even the distinctive smell of gasoline. Strangely enough, wine very rarely smells of grapes.

Some of the biggest names in wine have had the humblest of beginnings. The Sensi family began business in 1895 when Pietro Sensi started taking his home-made wine to the markets. His two sons continued the practice, and with their horse and cart the brothers used to deliver their Chianti wine to local villages and to the city of Florence. With the third generation, greater focus was placed on the wine making business and the Fratelli Sensi wines became famous not only in Florence but also throughout Tuscany. The fourth generation saw the Sensi name established among the international markets and every year, Sensi wines have won acclaim at the Decanter World Wine Awards, the International Wine Challenge and the Berlin Wine Trophy.

Arno River and Ponte Vecchio, Florence (Photo: Gary Ashley)Arno River and Ponte Vecchio, Florence (Photo: Gary Ashley)

The Sensi Collezione range is made up of an interesting selection of wines that shows a young and innovative Italian winemaking style. At the moment, you can buy Sensi wines locally only at restaurants and hotels but they are worth seeking out even though you’ll have to pay the usual mark-up that catering establishments tend to add. Depending on the elegance of your dining surroundings you can expect to pay anything between Bt 1,300 and Bt. 2,300 for these exceptional wines.

Sensi Collezione Chardonnay IGP 2012 (white), Italy

It used to be fashionable to say that you’re bored with Chardonnay. But to quote the well-known food-writer Fiona Beckett, “Saying you’re bored with Chardonnay is a bit like saying you’re bored with chicken or bread. There’s good and bad chicken, fabulous bread and truly awful bread.” If you have a taste for top quality white Burgundies and a truck-load of cash to pay for them, you’ll know that Chardonnay is one of the finest white wines you can buy.

This is a brilliant straw-coloured wine from Tuscany which looks lovely in the glass. It’s only 12.5% ABV so you can enjoy several glasses without feeling woozy. The rich floral bouquet wafts out the moment you pour the wine out of the decanter. And yes, I nearly always aerate the wine by pouring it from the bottle into a decanter first. I nearly always use small ones of 250ml which hold a third of a bottle. You’d be surprised what a huge difference it makes and certainly helps to aromas and tastes to come through. Chardonnay invariably has reminders of white flowers, pineapple, peach and honey and this is no exception. At first, it smells a bit like the rich Chardonnays of Chile but there the similarity ends.

Cooler climates tend to produce wines with a distinctive tang of sharpness and it brings a refreshing quality to the flavour. It’s quite light-bodied and a typical Italian Chardonnay. There is a splendidly long and full finish too and this wine would make a good partner for light and delicate tastes such as shellfish, light chicken meals or delicately flavoured vegetable dishes. In fact, Chardonnay will usually work with almost any seafood but you should avoid food that comes with a sweet sauce. I’ve been told that you can usually find this wine at the Royal Cliff Beach Hotel, the Centara Grand Modus Resort, The Glass House out in Na Jomtien and the D Varee Hotel on Jomtien Beach between Sois 13 and 14.

Sensi Collezione Pinot Noir delle Venezie IGP 2013 (red), Italy

Pinot Noir has a huge range of possible aromas ranging from red fruit such as strawberry and raspberry to black fruit or even more elemental smells like tree bark, forest floor and moss. There are sometimes gamey farmyard smells which are rather more attractive than they sound. This wine is a relatively cold-climate Pinot Noir and these tend to have rather stalky, rhubarb-like aromas along with a tang of acidity on the taste. As so often happens, you’ll have to give the wine at least fifteen minutes for the air to do its work. When they do, you’ll get a delicate smell of rhubarb and cranberry. At least, I think it’s cranberry for it has been a long time since I sniffed one.

It’s quite an elegant, light-bodied dry wine and on the palate there’s a distinct flavour of red berries and other red fruit, the typical dash of mild acidity and very little tannin. There’s also a lovely long dry finish and I found that the more I tasted this wine the more I enjoyed it because the air opened out the flavours. The Italians tend to make their wines to partner food and with its absence of tannin this would make a great partner for spicy dishes as well as pastas. I tried it with tagliatelle and a very spicy sauce and it worked superbly.

This wine is evidently available at the Royal Cliff Beach Hotel, the Centara Grand Modus Resort, Sea Sand Sun Resort & Spa in Na Jomtien, Rimtalay Seafood Restaurant on Naklua Beach and the Akvavit Grill & Bar on Jomtien Beach. Anyway, if you decide to try this wine, ask the waiter to pour it into a wine jug or decanter and leave it alone for fifteen or twenty. Have a glass of house plonk to pass the time.