Although the weather this winter has been wickedly wet and severely stormy, we are moving into the middle of the oyster’s peak season. The natural acidity of tart and sassy white wines kicks up the briny, sweet, meatiness of our Pacific oysters.
Also known as Japanese or Miyagi oysters, the Pacific oysters that grow up and down the west coast of North America are native to the Pacific coast of Asia. They were introduced to our waters in the 1920s and are now the most widely farmed and commercially-important oysters in the world.
Vineyards and wine making have been more widely introduced to South America than oyster aquaculture. The travelling Pacific oyster was successfully introduced to Chile in the late 1970s. Argentina, on the other hand, has attracted more travelling winemakers.
Born and raised in Bordeaux, France, François Lurton planted his vines in the Uco Valley, in the foothills of Argentina’s Andes Cordillera in 1996. Regularly $14.99, Lurton’s Piedra Negra Organic Pinot Grigio is currently $11.97. Light and brightly acidic, it offers flavours of apple, pear and honeydew melon that are amplified when paired with briny oysters.
Walk your favourite rocky beach at low tide and hunt up a few oysters. The salty minerality of these salt water bivalve molluscs enhances the subtle fruity qualities of lean, dry white wines. Finding truly dry white wines is easier among the selection available from France, Italy, Spain and Portugal. Based in Arraiolos, midway between Lisbon and Portugal’s eastern border with Spain, Monte da Ravasqueira makes a wide range of Vinho Regional Alentejano wines. Fonte da Serrana Branco $15.99 is a blend of Antão Vaz and Arinto. The lemon and lime flavours of Arinto are fleshed-out by the ripe honeyed pear notes of Antão Vaz and the underlying minerality rises to the oyster’s salty brine.
Credited with aphrodisiac qualities, oysters are very high in zinc. The mineral helps the body produce testosterone, a hormone critical in regulating women’s and men’s libido and sexual function. It also reputedly enhances your immune system, helps get rid of acne, eases rashes and makes your bones stronger.
Distinctive Italian white wines are becoming increasingly available. Catarratto is the most widely planted white wine grape variety in Sicily responsible for 34 per cent of the total vineyard area in Sicily. Zibibbo is what Sicilians call Muscat of Alexandria.
From that sunny southern Italian island, Mare Magnum Crudo Catarratto Zibibbo $17.99 has green grape aromas over mango pineapple, elderflower with a subtle twist of saltiness and orange rind and fresh grape flavours and a sassy finish.
From southern Italy, it is a short hop across the Mediterranean Sea to Greece. Just as well endowed with native indigenous grapes, Greek wines are undergoing a quality revival. Assyrtiko is a minerally, dry white wine grape originally grown on the Greek island of Santorini.
Now grown throughout Greece including in Peloponnisos, the southern peninsula of the Greek mainland. From Peloponnesian Nemea, Gai’a Monograph Assyrtiko $19.99 has an underlying chalky minerality overlaid with bright honeyed lime and grapefruit notes – a perfect pairing for rich, meaty Pacific oysters.
So if our wickedly wet winter is getting you down, take note of this observation on the restorative properties of oysters from the American writer Ernest Hemingway: “As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.”
Time to take a walk on the beach at low tide? Find oysters? Make plans?
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