Trust me with this one guys – I’m the son of an oyster farmer! And that means since the age of 10, I’ve been downing those slippery buggers like there’s no tomorrow; thanks Dad! I’ve also been drinking wine from a very early age too (what age?? that’s a secret!). So with this knowledge, I give you my ultimate guide to matching oysters and wine!
Oysters – they are so amazingly decadent, what with their briny taste of the ocean and heavenly creaminess. If you get your wine pairing wrong – and all those delicate flavours will be smothered by the wine, or worse, will make your wine taste metallic!
We all know the freshness of an oyster is vitally important; but did you also know the oyster’s condiment is also vitally important when it comes to wine matching. I prefer to eat my oysters au-naturale; letting the wine’s tangy flavour be the adequate zest. When you do this, the wine takes the place of a lemon squeeze. Try it – you will be surprised at how often you don’t need any condiments on your oyster, so long as you choose your wine wisely.
Pictured: It’s an Oyster Fest this month at Sydney seafood restaurant, Manta.
So these are my top picks – you’ll notice there’s a lot of cool climate, old world wines being put forward. Don’t worry – I haven’t gone all highbrow. I prefer these wines because they tend to be less fruity than their new world counterparts, and have a beautiful natural acid structure. A perfect foil for oysters. You don’t always have to spend a fortune to buy these wines, there are always low cost, entry level versions at most good liquor outlets. It’s definitely worth experimenting.
The unoaked, steely-mineral nature of this cool climate Chardonnay is a perfect match. Best when fresh and young.
Such a great low cost alternative, with its fresh and clean flavour profile. The wine I chose was ‘sur-lie’ – meaning it’s been aged on the dead yeast cells used to ferment the wine. This process adds another layer of flavour
Picpoul de Pinet – from the Languedoc region in the south of France
I’m a recent convert to the Picpoul grape variety, it’s full flavoured and has a delicious lemony tang.
Pinot Grigio from northern Italy
This dry white wine from northern Italy is renowned for its racy lemony/lime acidity and feint aromas of green apple and honeysuckle. Even though it’s the same grape variety, the slippery textured, fuller flavoured Pinot Gris does not enjoy the same oyster matching capabilities. Look for well-known Italian regions such as Lombardy, the Veneto, Friuli, Trentino, and Alto Adige.
Albarino from Northern Spain
Albarino from the northern Spain region of Rias Baixes, is a natural choice. Apart from producing this very linear wine with great acid, the region is also renowned for supplying the world’s best seafood due to the cool water currents from the north colliding with the warm currents from the south. That proves, Centuries of drinking the local wine with the region’s food has definitely paid off.
These unoaked Sauvignon Blanc wines of France’s Loire Valley are a product of the region’s chalk soils, which provide the wine’s famed minerality. Expect flinty, citrus and spicy notes. The wines are said to be slightly fuller flavoured with more pronounced varietal character than their next door neighbour in the Loire, Pouilly-Fumé, which also specialises in 100% Sauvignon Blanc.
Very dry Champagne and other sparkling wines
When I visited the Champagne region last year, I noticed a real trend for some ‘Grower Champagne’ to have zero or very little dosage (the sugary sweetness added to the bottle after the wine has finished its secondary fermentation). While these can be tough to drink on their own, especially when being tasted alongside the other Champagnes that had the traditional 8 grams of sweetness added per litre, when you try them with an oyster; va-voom! We have sensory lift off! And remember, it doesn’t have to be Champagne, any sparkling wine, whether it’s Cava, Prosecco or a lighter new world sparkling wine from Australia, New Zealand or USA, could work just as well. The bubbles play an important part as a balancing act for the creaminess of the oyster.
Oyster Appreciation Month
To confirm my oyster matching prowess, I went along to top Sydney seafood restaurant, Manta at Woolloomooloo Wharf. Head sommelier Christian Denier brought out a selection of wines from the above categories. What a great experience, and one I recommend everyone try. February is Oyster Appreciation month for Manta, and will culminate this Sunday with, ‘Shucks Fest’, where a pop up oyster bar will shuck to order on the wharf for passers-by.