Somewhat antithetical to the type of consumption that goes on in college towns like Geneseo, wine is a staple of the Finger Lakes region. Savored, not guzzled, many sweeter wines can be a gateway to an increased appreciation for the grapey stuff. According to Greg Brown, who co-owns Good Spirits liquor store on Route 20A with his wife Barbara Brown, too many novices start out trying more “advanced” wines.
“I always tell people, ‘Drink what tastes best to you,’” Brown said. “Don’t try to force yourself to get a drier flavor because someone is telling you that [others] are going to be too sweet … The more wine you drink, you’ll find, slowly, that you are going to want to find something drier.”
Brown, a former manager for a wine distributor, recalled diners ordering drier wines like cabernet and rarely getting through the serving.
“I would occasionally go over to the table and say, ‘Was there something wrong with the wine?’ … They would say, ‘No, just drier than what we like … People tell us that’s what we’re supposed to drink with steak,’” he said.
Brown recommends consulting a knowledgeable retailer when considering moving toward a drier bottle, giving them an idea of what wines you have previously enjoyed.
When searching for the ideal bottle, a novice can also be somewhat mystified by wine terms. Dry wines are simply less sweet with lower sugar content than, say, a sweeter wine. Full bodied versus lighter wines are gauges of the consistency of the product. Acid content is something to consider as well. European wines are usually more acidic while American blends, especially Californian ones, are fruitier.
Popular wine varieties that tend to be sweeter and appeal to beginners are pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc, moscato, riesling and inexpensive chardonnays, among the whites. Cheaper chardonnays tend to have sweeter grape varieties mixed in and no wood ageing; instead, they are produced in stainless steel, similar to pinot grigio, a fruitier wine. Sauvignon blanc is not quite as dry as chardonnay and has a citrusy flavor. Moscato is also sweet but does not have a grapey flavor.
In terms of red wine, Brown recommends pinot noir, which is still dry but less so than a cabernet or merlot. Malbecs are growing in popularity and tend to have an earthier flavor. Other suitable options are New York State reds, which have a sweeter flavor, largely because of the indigenous soil composition and shorter growing season than most other regional blends.
For locavores, Deer Run Winery, located on Conesus Lake, offers its Max Black, a sweet red. Hazlitt, a winery just off of Seneca Lake in Hector, N.Y., has Red Cat and White Cat, top-selling varieties that are sweet and indigenous to western New York. Either of the establishments sell these products for under $10.
For Geneseo students – who are 21, of course – the area offers wines that are accommodating to both a pupil’s palate and pocket.