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Which Wine for Oysters?

With it being the 31st of December and oysters featuring traditionally on the evening’s menu, two questions arise: which wine is the best match with raw oysters and how do we open them ?

Oysters are the perfect meal for convalescing according to an old French medical dictionary

When pairing food and wine there are a few general guide lines to follow:

  • find a wine that will not overpower what you are eating;
  • match (or contrast) the main features of the food/dish;
  • and not least importantly choose a wine that suits your budget and that you enjoy.
Raw oysters are just perfect served with a wedge of lemon, a vinaigrette with chopped shallots or with a drop of tabasco sauce

What are the main attributes of oysters? Undoubtedly their utter freshness above all things, as well as their lightness and their delicate mineral, salty taste.

You will want to choose a wine that shows the same characteristics as the oysters: a wine that is light, fresh with a clean finish, that will not override with power nor complexity the delicious, subtle taste from the sea.

So don’t think so much about the grape variety but more about the style of the wine. Your ideal wine should thus be dry, white, young, and unoaked with refreshing acidity. Many wines will fit that description and that leaves a wide choice of grape varieties and points of origin. Here are some classic suggestions of wines to choose from.

  • A Muscadet from the Loire Valley, France
  • A Sauvignon de Touraine, or another young Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley such as a Menetou-Salon or a steely Sancerre
  • Gros Plan du Pays Nantais, from the Loire
  • A Chablis, from Burgundy, France
  • An Entre-deux-Mers, a Pessac-Léognan, a Graves, a Blaye – Côtes de Bordeaux, or a Bordeaux Blanc from Bordeaux, France
  • A Riesling from Alsace, France

From outside of France:

  • An unoaked Chenin Blanc from South Africa
  • A Pinot Gris from Oregon, USA
  • An unoaked Chardonnay from Sonoma, California
  • A Sauvignon-Sémillon or Chardonnay from Margaret River

And the list can go on…

What about bubbles with oysters? Doubtful that a celebratory bottle of fizz won’t be opened on the 31st, so can it wash down the oysters?

If champagne is your drink of choice throughout the evening, select one that is as dry as possible and that has a high proportion of Chardonnay in the blend. An Extra Brut Blanc de Blanc will work nicely.

Now to opening the bivalves… I confess that I have until last year been nervous about doing it myself and have left the feat to others.

I found out, however, that – holding the oyster steady under a folded tea-towel with your hand in a thick leather gardening glove whilst your other hand prises the oyster open – does the trick!

Click here for a short video showing you just how it is done.


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