Picking ‘Old World’ wines to pair with Oysters

With summer winding down and temperatures declining decidedly, it’s time to enjoy the bounty of oysters from our chilly Pacific waters.

Pairing wine with oysters – like any food and wine pairing – is really a matter of personal preference.  Whites work better than reds.  Oysters – and most other seafoods – clash with the tannins in red wines and create an astringent, metallic flavour.

From Spain, blending traditional and modern wine grapes and winemaking techniques, Jana Verdejo Sauvignon Blanc (771246) $9.00 has a wisp of chalky minerality that slides into fresh sliced green apple and pear before spritzing up with zingy gooseberry and grassy kiwi fruit. That chalky note enhances the sweet salinity of the oysters.

Vinho Verde is Portugal’s northernmost wine producing region. It’s located on the west coast of the Iberian Peninsula in northern Portugal. The wines of Vinho Verde have long been known for their vibrant fruit, low alcohol and refreshing qualities — a combination that makes them one of the most versatile partners with food.

Made from the traditional Portugese grapes Loureiro and Arinto, Xadrez Vinho Verde (168625) $11.70 is bright and sassy, slightly fizzy, full of lemon and grapefruit flavours that slide into subtle tropical fruitiness and work wonderfully with oysters.

Citra Pinot Grigio Terre Di Chieti (539312) $12.99 comes from the Abruzzo region of eastern Italy. The lemon and lime notes that it features play off the rich salty sweetness of oysters.  In turn that same salty sweetness enhances the citric fruitiness of the wine.

The Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine area covers 23 municipalities to the southeast of Nantes, in the north-western corner of France, and is named for the wine grapes that thrive there – Muscadet – and the two rivers that cross it – the Petite Maine and the Sèvre Nantaise.

Les Vergers Muscadet Sevre et Maine (174615) $13.65 has a subtle bouquet of orange zest, pear and strong minerality. A light spritzy sparkle on the palate, makes way for delicate flavours of citrus and pear. What an elegant balance between mineral character and floral freshness!

Rueda, located north east of Madrid, is home to what is arguably Spain’s best white wine – Verdejo. The tart, zingy Verdejo fully expresses itself in the high altitude of Rueda where it showcases lemon and citrus, stony minerality and above all, a sharp acidity.

That same naturally high acidity makes Marqués de Riscal Rueda Blanco (237529) $19.49 perfect for pairing with oysters. Refreshingly dry, it has high aromatic intensity, with some subtle tropical fruit and hints of star anise, and fresh cut grass.

Kusshi oysters are grown in floating trays and tumbled very aggressively. This breaks off the thin growing edge and forces them to deepen and thicken their shells. The resulting oyster, called a Kusshi, Japanese for “precious,” is almost as deep as it is long.

The Bourdy family has been in the wine growing/making business since 1475. Their estate in France is just east and south Burgundy’s Cote D’Or in the Jura region. They specialize in well-aged, late released wines, densely flavoured and full of character.

A traditional regional specialty but still a very unusual kind of Chardonnay, Jean Bourdy Cotes du Jura Blanc (826297) $31.79 could be the most interesting white wine most wine lovers have encountered.  More savoury than fruity, it leads with a nutty almond edge, some sage, basil and even oregano notes and finishes with a sprinkling of salt and a twist of anise.

The aging and all of those savoury notes make the 2009 Bourdy Cotes du Jura Blanc one of the most exciting choices for pairing with the rich, salt and seaweed character of raw oysters – particularly Kusshis!

Located in heart of the Sancerre region of France, Domaine Vincent Delaporte and Sons have been making wine since the 17th century. Domaine Delaporte Sancerre Chavignol (933518) $37.99 leads with rhubarb, blackcurrant, gooseberry and kiwi aromas.

Bright and zingy on first sip, the mouth filling flavours echo the aromas exactly.  The richness of the wine makes it a perfect match for our fresh Pacific oysters!

Breaking news! Local North Island wine lovers should mark their calendars.  The 15th annual North Island College Wine Festival will take place on Friday, November 18th at the Campbell River campus of the NIC. WineWise will follow up with more details as they become available.


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