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Shuck and Ah!

Pairing oysters on the half-shell with Muscadet


In days of yore, oyster houses didn’t serve spirits. It wasn’t so much that wine and beer were the be-all and end-all match for the fresh bivalves being shucked on bartops as it was an old wives’ tale. Legend had it that drinking any spirit while slurping down a mollusk would pickle the oyster in the stomach, leaving one worse for wear. Fable or not, we’re happy to stick with pairing these raw treats with wine. Bronwen Clark, of Toronto’s equally legendary Rodney’s Oyster House, says a top match is Muscadet; that’s why the same wine has been on their wine list consistently since they opened in 1987. “You want something that enhances the oyster, as opposed to sort of muting its flavours,” she says. “Some wines can make bitterness come out in an oyster and other ones can just totally overpower it so that you’ve missed the nuances that are happening.” The perfect refreshing middle ground is Muscadet, light-bodied and dry with flavourful citrus details. “All the whites here – that’s the key,” Clark says, referring to the well-edited wine list. “After you finish a sip, you sort of want it to dry your palate out and that’s the acidity. There are some wines that have a little more fruity characteristic, but they’re all still dry.” rodneysoysterhouse.com

Why it Works
“When you’re eating oysters, you put lemon on them, because it breaks down the salinity of the oyster,” says Clark. “So when you’re drinking wine, you want to follow at a similar level.” That’s why Muscadet and other crisp, dry white wines like unoaked Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are a perfect fit with oysters.

Pure & Simple
“If you’re trying a bunch of different types and want to really taste the difference between the oysters, you shouldn’t really put anything on them,” Clark advises. So hold off on the various condiments available from a simple squeeze of lemon to hot sauce or a Mignonette.

Mignonette Sauce
A super simple sauce for oysters. Fresh pepper and vinegar heighten the flavor profile of oysters, without overwhelming their delicate nature. This recipe creates enough for two dozen oysters.

Ingredients:
1 shallot
2/3 c. red wine vinegar
dry red or white wine, splash
2 tsp fresh, coarsely ground pepper
salt, pinch

Method:
1. Finely chop the shallot.
2. Mix all ingredients in a small bowl or jar.
3. Chill well.
4. Serve by spooning a bit of the Mignonette over oysters on the half shell.

Shell Games

Domaine Du Vieux Chai 2009 Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie

Loire, France $13.95 (200048)
The crisp acidity and long, refreshing finish common to the wine make Muscadets like this ideally suited to be enjoyed with oysters.

Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery 2009 Chardonnay Nonoaked

Niagara Peninsula $12.95 (291211)
The bright apple and citrus flavours of this unoaked Chardonnay add personality to a vibrant white wine that’ll cleanse your palate between bites.

Wolf Blass 2010 Yellow Label Riesling

South Australia $14.95 (505370)
Australian Rieslings like this widely available model from Wolf Blass are great mates for oysters because they’re always dry with vibrant, refreshing character.



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