Oysters; you either love them or you hate them. Some will say they are the food of the gods, and no one can deny that oysters are the perfect ingredient for a very special high-end dinner. But the enjoyment could easily be ruined by pairing oysters with the wrong wine! Today, we discuss how to do this right.
Pairing Oysters With Wine: Key Takeaways
- Oysters are usually paired with white wine. This is not only a matter of tradition but also of flavour compatibility.
- Both sparkling and still white wines are a good choice to pair with oysters.
- Raw oysters pair better with sparkling wine
- Red wine can be used, but proceed with care (not too much tannins, please)
Some Words About Oysters
No matter if you are going to prepare the oysters yourself or not, it’s worth taking some time to think about the ingredient in order to come up with the perfect wine pairing. We have to understand the food part of the pairing just as well as the wine part in order to create a perfect match.
So what can we say about oysters? Even though often connected with luxury, these mollusks have actually been a part of the human diet for thousands of years. With their flavour and feel, oysters pretty much embody the essence of the ocean. It’s impossible to eat them without thinking about the sea.
Enjoying oysters requires a refined taste. Not everyone loves them, and those who don’t, tend to hate them. If prepared right and paired with the right wine, oysters can make a really exquisite meal. It is also believed that oysters are an aphrodisiac. This feature has been ascribed to oysters at least since the Roman Empire; but these days we actually have scientific studies that prove it.
Types Of Oysters
When choosing oysters for your meal, it’s worth considering where they come from. Did you know there are many types of oysters? Actually, there are more than 200 species that are classified as oysters, but only a couple of those are actually edible.
The oysters we typically eat and that you can buy in the store usually belong to one of those 5 species:
- Atlantic Oyster
- Olympia Oyster
- Pacific Oyster
- European Flat Oyster
- Kumamoto Oyster
What’s more important than the actual species, though, is knowing where the oysters come from. You might know about wines and their ‘terroirs’. Well, oysters have something similar: it’s called a merroir. The terminology is not as important as the principle that works both for wine and oysters: the environment in which they are grown will greatly influence the flavour of the final product.
Just think about it, oysters feed by filtering water from the ocean. The water in which they are growing is definitely going to impact the taste of their delicate flesh.
Oysters are best consumed as fresh as possible, which is why you should always buy locally caught oysters, if possible. What kind of oyster you will find will, of course, depend on where you are in the world.
In the US, oysters are typically classified as East Coast Oysters or West Coast Oysters. Although these are broad categories, there is a distinct difference between the two. Typically, East Coast Oysters will be more salty and tough. West Coast Oysters, on the other hand, are more sweet and tender. Still, you’ll find plenty of different varieties in both categories. Some of the most popular oysters from the East Coast include the Blue Point Oysters from Long Island and the Nantucket Oyster from Massachusetts, for example. When it comes to the West Coast, celebrated varieties include Aurora, Emerald Cove, Hog Island, and Kusshi.
Pairing Wine And Oysters
When it comes to pairing wine with oysters, white wine is definitely the go-to choice. It’s not only the traditional pairing, but also a safer one. Many kinds of white wine will go amazing with oysters. Of course, you can pair your oysters with anything you like, but if it’s going to be red wine, you have to be careful!
The main thing to pay attention to when it comes to pairing oysters with wine is not to overpower their flavour. How do you ensure that? Well, a good rule of thumb is to avoid wines with overpowering flavours. High in tannins? It won’t work? Aged in oak? Probably won’t work. Overly sweet? Well, also, probably not. You get the point. The classic pairing for oysters is a light and dry white wine. Any kind of pairing that’s different from that requires more care.
Best White Wines To Pair With Oysters
As mentioned, there is nothing that fits better with oysters than a wisely-chosen whit wine. Here are our favourites for pairing with oysters:
Muscadet is pretty much the perfect wine for pairing with all kinds of seafood. The wine comes from France, from the valley of the river Loire. It is made from an idigenous white grape, Melon de Bourgogne. Muscadet is a wine with a long and rich history. In some periods it has been more popular than in others, but the unique wine has had many admirers throughout history, notably King Louis XIV.
But what is it that makes Muscadet perfect for seafood? Well, this wine is bone-dry. What that means in practice is that it won’t distract you from the gentle flavour of oysters. No, this wine is also highly acidic, but the acidity feels very fruity. You’ll be able to detect notes of lime, lemon, and even apple and pear. But let that not mislead you, this is definitely not a fruity wine.
Our Recommendation: 2018 Jerome Choblet Muscadet Clos De La Senaigerie
If anything fits perfectly to the Clos De La Senaigerie Muscadet, it’s surely Oysters. This French wine is very refreshing and mineral in taste. It’s reminiscent of ocean air and really a perfect pair for a simple plate of high quality oysters.
Sauvignon Blanc is pretty much a safe bet when looking for a great wine to pair with oysters. Lightweight but playful, it’s the perfect wine to serve with oysters in the summer. Today, Sauvignon Blanc is produced in many different regions, including (but not limited to) North America, Australia, and Brazil. However, the wine originated in France, and it’s one of the famous Bordeaux wines. This playful white wine is fairly dry but rich in notes of citrus fruit and herbs.
When choosing Sauvignon Blanc to pair with oysters, the region it comes from plays a big role. Sauvignon Blanc made from grapes grown in warm regions like Brazil or Australia will generally be sweeter and have more tropical notes. Typically, this is not what we are looking for when pairing with oysters. Sauvignon Blanc made in cooler regions like France, it’s country of origin, will feel much more crisp which will allow it to bring out the flavour of oysters.
Our Recommendation: 2016 The Oyster Sauvignon Blanc, Proud Pour
Well, this wine has a picture of an oyster right on the bottle. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? In this case, we think Proud Pour did an outstanding job. The aim was to create a white wine that will be a perfect match for oysters, and they did it. Although very light, this wine does have a distinct fruity sweetness, so it might not be to everyone’s taste. A good reason to buy this wine is also the fact that the company donates part of the profits to help save oyster populations.
If Spanish wines make you think of summer, then you won’t be disappointed by Albariño. Albariño is often the go-to wine to serve with local seafood dishes and notably ceviche, and yes, it does work perfectly with oysters too, especially in the summer.
This wine is light and acidic which is really what we like to pair with oysters. However, even though Albariño is dry, it’s anything but boring. Depending on the bottle you choose, Albariño might bring exciting fruity hints and even a note of honeysuckle, all that without being sweet at all.
Our Recommendation: 2019 Pazo Torrado Albariño
This vintage has an exceptionally full flavour profile for a specimen of Albariño wine. After taking a sip of the Pazo Torrado Albariño, the powerful floral notes will definitely make an impression. Still, these are all gentle notes like jasmine and honeysuckle so they are not overpowering when paired with oysters. Epet to feel some fruity notes coupled with a refreshing dose of citrusy acidity.
Not far from the aforementioned Spanish Albariño, you’ll find another great wine for pairing with oysters: the Vinho Verde from Portugal. Now, Vinho Verde is actually a denomination of origin. Pretty much any blend of grapes or a varietal wine from the region in Portugal can be used. One of them is Alvarinho, which is actually the same grape variety as Albariño. Other varieties used include Loureiro, Azal, Arinto, Avesso, and Trajadura.
In any case, Vinho Verde is a wine with a distinct character. It is notable for being only slightly carbonated, which goes really well with seafood. Vinho Verde is also a dry wine (always better with oysters). The flavour feels light and refreshing, with some tropical notes in the background.
Our Recommendation: Maria Papoila Vinho Verde
Delightfully lightweight and low-key spritzy, the Maria Papolia is a wonderful companion for an outdoor summer lunch. Of course, you could use it in other settings too, but this is really the vibe we get from this wine. This wine is very easy to drink, and the fresh notes of herbs and green apples pair well with many foods.
Well, let’s face it, Champagne was the first image of wine that comes into our heads when we think of oysters. At least for most of us. And it’s true, Champagne is really the classic choice when it comes to seafood appetizers. It’s pretty much a sign of elegance too, so it’s a great choice for important occasions.
When it comes to the flavour profile of Champagne, it is the epitome of the perfect pairing for a seafood appetizer. Bubbly and zesty, but also with a depth of flavour, a good bottle of Champagne can really bring your meal to the next level.
Our Recommendation: Jacques Lassaigne “Les Vignes de Montgueux” Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut-NV
This wine is the proof that good Champagne doesn’t have to be overly expensive. Moderately priced, this wine from Jacques Lassaigne has a very classy feel to it. Fairly acidic and with mineral notes, a sip from this bottle will provide refreshment while dazzling you with gentle flower notes and hints of yellow fruit.
All of our recommendations so far have been fairly similar in character, but let us introduce something a bit different. The Fino Sherry (a fortified wine) is as dry and light-bodied as they come. Sometimes characterized as ‘pale’, this wine will definitely not overpower you with flavours, but the notes of almond and herbs will stimulate your palate. Fino Sherry is best used as an appetizer wine.
Our Recommendation: Gonzalez-Byass “Una Palma” Fino Sherry
The “Una Palma” fino sherry is an exquisite representative of this type of wine. With distinct notes of nuts and a hint of yeast, this wine will stimulate your appetite and pair perfectly with all kinds of oysters.
Pairing Red Wine With Oysters
Pairing red wine with oysters requires a bit of courage. Serve a bottle of red with oysters, and your guests will definitely be surprised. However, they might be surprised in a good way, if you choose right. The key is choosing a red that feels very light and refreshing. Look for wines with low tannins and a fairly high acidy. Dry and semi-dry can work. Beaujolais is pretty much the go-to choice when it comes to pairing red wine with oysters.
Our Recommendation: 2018 Saint-Amour Domaine de la Pirolette
The key characteristic of Beaujolais, and especially this vintage, is the low tannin content. This allows the wine to be refreshing, without being too sweet. The Saint-Amous brings flower light notes of flowers and berries with a distinctively earthy background.
Fun Facts About Oysters
- Just like wine, oysters are characterized by their terroir. In this case, it’s called merroir, because they live underwater.
- There are many types of oysters: in fact, more than 200 species fall into the family. However, the oysters we typically eat belong to five different species out of those two hundred.
- You’ll never find a pearl in the oyster on your plate! At least, if this happens, you’ll know you are being served the wrong species of oyster. Pear oysters are not edible and grow deep in the ocean, as opposed to edible oysters that are harvested from shallow waters.
- Oysters can change their gender. In fact, most oysters will go through this transition at least once in their lifetime.
- Oysters are natural water filters. They can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day.
- Winter is the best time to eat oysters. While they are a typical summer dish, wild oysters will actually taste better in the winter.
If you are new to wine pairing, finding the right match for oysters is actually a wonderful challenge. As long as you stick to dry white wines, you can’t really go wrong. The trick is only finding your likes and dislikes until you refine your taste. When eating raw oysters, a sparkling white wine works great, but so does something like VInho Verde. When serving cooked, fried, or smoked oysters, you can go ahead and choose wines with a bit of a heavier flavour. We hope you’ll have fun discovering the best wine to pair with oysters!