This all came about when I was sitting down with a wine rep tasting a range of gorgeous French wines. I was silently wishing I had some oysters to pair them with. Duly motivated, I decided to treat my future self to some oysters to match the wines I was tasting. You can be the beneficiary of my self indulgent gluttony! You need to provide your own oysters. But I guarantee these six classic oyster and wine matches.
Food and wine matching
In my opinion, the only way to get a perfect match is to have a practice run (or two). Now you may laugh, but how can you possible know if the dish will match the vino (or the other way around) if you don’t know how they both taste individually first. And then together. How often have you opened a wine and it has not quite tasted like what you expected (happily or unhappily)? The same can be said for the food. With so many variables, you need to nail down, as close as possible, what it will look, smell and taste like.
If you’ve only got one bottle or aren’t interested in doing all this practice there are some tips (NOT RULES) that can help make sure they cause a joyful union on your palate. Or at the very least avoid clangers. Remember that time I had Shiraz with oven baked fish? I do. It was not nice. I watched people at a restaurant eat red duck curry and drink Heathcote Shiraz. More power to them for exercising the number one rule: Drink what you like. BUT they couldn’t be tasting much of either.
Wine Matching Tips.
Tip 1. Avoid the wine killers. Chocolate, coriander, chilli, ice cream.
Tip 2. Match weights.
Tip 3. Each can balance the other. Acidic wine to cut through a rich dish. A rich wine to sit over an acidic dish.
Tip 4. Simple wine for complex food. Complex wine for simple food.
Tip 5. When in doubt. Soave. Pizza (good pizza guys, not the average local stuff).
Oyster and Wine
What works with natural oysters? They taste of the sea and are quite oily. High acid wines that cut through the oily texture work really well. Champagne and oysters is the classically decadent way to enjoy these molluscs. But equally Fino/Manzanilla and Muscadet work because they complement flavours and cut through the texture. Any high acid dry wine works quite well: Chablis, Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Gruner Veltliner, Assyrtiko from Santorini would be an amazing match, Albarino.
Some more unusual matches included soft tannins and tart reds: Beaujolais, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc are all worth trying. You just have to be careful of the style when purchasing (make friends with your wine guy!). Stout is well regarded, especially Guinness stout. I find Guinness so bland that it is almost unpalatable, it will however not clash with oysters I guess. Sauternes is one I’ve been put on to. I can kind of picture it in my mind working, but I’m not 100% sold.
What doesn’t work? Rich white wines, the textures seem to clash rather than meld together. High tannins in wines tend to taste harsh with oysters. Developed characters of old wine, the oysters need freshness and vibrancy not ‘the turf’ to their ‘surf’. Moderate sweetness, it has to be bold and pronounced sweetness or not present at all.
I am reliably told that matching oysters with spirits is a bad idea, it can make them indigestable and make you quite ill.