Learning to Love Oysters and White Wine

Even if you’re not a fan of white wine or oysters, you should learn to love white wine AND oysters.  For those red wine only purists currently rolling their eyes, hang with me for a bit.  I promise the experience is worth it.  Whereas some white wines such as Chablis are delightful with all oysters, other whites are better paired with specific varieties.  For example, the crisp fruitiness and minerality of a Muscadet matched with the fresh, sweet salinity of an east coast oyster is as complementary a culinary pairing as peanut butter and jelly.

Let’s start with oysters.  They’re slimy, weird looking and alive when you eat them, but consider this: they also make pearls.  They filter the water we swim in and are so rich in zinc they can sometimes give you fuzzy feelings.  Their shells are chock full of calcium and make great compost.  Their flavor profiles are subtle and can span from hints of butter to melon to ocean brine and prosciutto.  Admit it, you want to love oysters but maybe you don’t know how.

How about white wine?  It’s fruity, crisp, sometimes buttery and (should be) cold.  White wine is often not as “complex” as red, but consider this: almost all champagne is white even if it’s made from red grapes and who doesn’t like champagne?  White wine is more refreshing than red.  It can boast flavor profiles ranging from almonds to stone fruits to butter and ocean brine.  Does that sound familiar?

Even if you’re not a fan of white wine or oysters, you should learn to love white wine AND oysters

If you’re on the fence about either oysters or white wine, then this is truly one of those instances where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  The flavor profiles of oysters and a chilled white wine match perfectly with one another, but these are just words.  To be truly convinced, you’ll need to try for yourself.  Here are some of our favorite white wine and oyster pairings to get you started:

Sauvignon Blanc, especially those from Bordeaux (La Dame Blanche is our in-house favorite), is a classic pairing with gigas oysters, a species grown on the West coast.  The wine’s fruitiness and tartness are highlighted when paired with these mildly sweet oysters from California and Washington.  The melon and kiwi accents are enhanced in both the wine and the bivalve.  However, if you paired the same wine with an east coast oyster or virginica species, the pairing may come off as metallic and harsh.

Muscadet or Melon de Bourgogne is beautiful with the aforementioned east coast virginica species. The inherent minerality and salinity of Muscadet plays perfectly with the brinier New England oysters.

When people ask me to recommend a wine for oysters, I always tell them to repeat after me: "Chablis, Chablis, Chablis!"

If you’re having an assorted tray of tasty ocean treats on the half-shell, heed the advice of oyster connoisseur Rowan Jacobsen,  author of what I consider to be the oyster bible, “A Geography of Oysters,” and the soon-to-be-released “The Essential Oyster.” Rowan says, “When people ask me to recommend a wine for oysters, I always tell them to repeat after me: ‘Chablis, Chablis, Chablis!’  Lots of white wines go well with this oyster or that oyster, but in my experience, Chablis tastes great with all oysters.  Why?  Look no further than the soil beneath the vines.”  He’s referring to Chablis’ classic Kimmeridgian soil, which is literally composed of fossilized seashells, crustaceans and limestone.  What better accompaniment is there for oysters than wine made from grapes grown off the fossilized remains of the oyster’s prehistoric ancestors?  That’s maybe a touch too morbidly poetic … but you get the idea.

Look no further than our Chablis favorite, Domaine du Chardonnay. A perfect match to get started with any type of oyster.

You’re a pro now so go get shuckin’ and don’t forget what Billy Shakespeare said, “The world is your oyster, so let us get turnt on some white wine.”  Eh, close enough.

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