This class was presented by the Stony Brook University Center for Wine, Food, and Culture as part of a continuing series of events designed to “offer richly diverse experiences with the goal of enhancing knowledge, sensory awareness, health, and conviviality.”
This was an amazing class. Eric Fry of the Lenz Winery in Peconic on the north fork of Long Island showed us how wines change in flavor and aroma over time. Eric is a big, no nonsense man with a thick beard, pony tail and hands calloused from hard work in the winery. From zymurgy to viticulture he knows his stuff and led this class with the confidence and authority of a master.
We tasted 3 samples of four different Long Island wines in various stages of aging: Too young, just right for sale, and depending on the wine, aged 7 to 12 years.
The wines were gewürztraminer, chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and a sparkling wine. (Careful not to use the “C” word now. The name Champagne can only be used if the wine is actually made there.)
In each case the too young wine was poured first, followed by the just right for sale and finally, the aged wine. Eric encouraged us to pay close attention to what we were smelling and tasting, and then asked us to describe those aromas and flavors.
Noticing our difficulty with this, Eric explained that the part of our brains that tastes and smells is not connected to the part that makes words. The first word that pops into our heads is accurate--just leave it at that.
Of the sparkling wines I preferred the oldest of the 3. It had “sat on the yeast” for 12 years before bottling and was aged in the bottle only long enough to be ready for sale.
By the way, sparkling wines don't age well in the bottle and are made to be drunk when you buy them. Don’t store these wines, drink them.
My preference in the other wines was for the ones that had not been aged, but were just ready for sale. Maybe that’s just my inexperienced taste buds, but hey, I’m a beer man anyway.
In addition to popping corks, Mr. Fry also popped a few bubbles when the discussion turned to the word Reserve. Someone asked what it means when you see it on a wine label. Eric’s reply was, “Nothing. It’s a marketing technique.”
Gasps of horror and disbelief filled the room as Eric explained that some wineries will use Reserve on the label just so they can charge more money for that wine.
Since there’s no law governing the use of the word, so it doesn’t always mean the wine is better. A winery can slap the reserve label on anything they want.
Do all wineries pull this stunt? Hopefully not and I’d like to think none of Long Island wineries do it. When I see Reserve on a label I want to believe it’s there for a reason, but I won’t trust anything but my taste buds from now on.
This was a great evening. Next time Eric Fry gives a class, count me in.