“We do our wine like handmade pasta.”
And in that little offhand quip, Massimo Sensi – part of the 4th generation behind Sensi wines, in operation since 1895 – pretty much summed up everything you need to know about his family’s perennially crowd-pleasing wine operation.
Another way to get an insight into what Massimo and the Sensi family is all about is by taking a look at how he responded to questions about Christmas in Italy in 2020 (during a virtual tasting in which he guided me and a handful of other wine media types through a few wines in their portfolio). With the nation more or less on total lock-down during that time, his plans for celebrating the holidays included “drinking, playing games with my kids, and of course working. Despite the situation, I feel totally excited. A lot of people are discovering wine from scratch [due to the pandemic]. Let’s be confident, and drink wine!”
Somehow, just like the slightly giddy, eye-catching packaging on many of Sensi’s bottles, this effusive optimism comes off as much more genuine, puppy-like excitement than mere marketing shtick. Even a global pandemic and the thought of not being able to spend time with loved ones couldn’t bring this guy down.
Sensi seems pretty excited about, well, everything having to do with his family’s business. Case in point: their 65ha of estate vineyards are now Organic, about which he is predictably optimistic. “We really believe the world has to move to this kind of [viticulture]. It’s just the beginning, but we’ll have more [Organic] wines coming out in the next few months.”
As it turns out, Sensi’s rose-colored glasses view of the world is well reflected in his wines… or maybe that’s the other way around…?
2019 Sensi 18K Pure Gold Prosecco Brut (Veneto, $20)
Made from 100% Glera, this gold-plated package is a very successful seller for Sensi (especially in Australia). Yes, the bottle wrapping reeks of gimmickry. But there’s much more to it than might be gleaned from a quick first appearance. “A lot of people are looking for something new and exciting,” Sensi remarked about the unique bottling, the design of which is targeted to be reminscent of ice and gold, with each bottle being slightly different and unique due to the application process. In person, it’s actually quite pretty, and so are its contents. Floral notes, sweet melon aromas, with white pear flavors, it’s zesty in the mouth, with bouncy acidity and focused green apple tones. There’s good length for the price, too, with a slightly creamy note. Basically, it’s delicious.
2018 Sensi Sabbiato Bolgheri (Tuscany, $28)
A blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, and 10% Sangiovese, from mainly sandy and marlstone-sandstone soils, comprising clay and limestone schist, this red is produced close to the seaside. “I would like to live there!” exclaimed Sensi in characteristic exuberance. “The microclimate is very dry, this allows the grapes to produce spectacular Cabernet.” Strong dark tobacco and toast notes kick things off, with deep, dark red fruit aromas and a hint of grilled orange peel. it has jump and freshness, and also fruity depth and seriousness on the palate. Chewy, spicy, tasty, and full, with lovely saline notes, it’s made to make friends.
2017 Sensi Mantello (Tuscany, $23)
A blend of 70% Sangiovese and 30% Syrah, with an interesting aging regimen: 50% new French oak for 12-14 months, then 12 months in steel, followed by a further year in bottle. Black pepper, meat, smoke, tarragon, sour black and red cherry, and tobacco all show up on the complex nose. There’s a very vice mouthfeel balance between freshness and sultry silkiness. It remains consistently spicy, smokey, and meaty throughout, and goes down dangerously easy.