By The Glass
Oysters are heavenly with Chablis
OYSTERS are among the most nutritionally balanced foods -- just four to five provide the recommended daily allowance of iron, copper, iodine, magnesium, calcium, zinc, manganese and phosphorous. And lucky for us, they are delicious!
These hard-to-open, soft, luxurious, salty delicacies come in more than a dozen varieties. All share the briny, earthy flavor that distinguishes them from any other food in the world. Also lucky for us, they all work really well with wine.
The classic pairing with oysters is chablis -- not the big jug chablis made in America. True chablis is minerally, high-acid and citrusy and comes from a small area about 90 miles southeast of Paris.
The chardonnay grape reigns supreme here, but is nothing like chardonnay from anywhere else. It is grown in a particular type of clay called Kimmeridgian that is actually made up of ancient deposits of tiny fossilized oyster shells. Maybe that's why the wine goes so well with oysters.
The crackling edge of acidity that all good chablis should have cuts the richness of oysters. The flintiness and mineral flavors match perfectly with those same flavors in fresh oysters.
My recommendation is the 2004 Lavantureux Chablis ($17), a delicious and refreshing example that smells almost of the sea, with more than a whiff of white fruit. It zings on the palate, with a lively, buoyant persona and is almost too easy to drink. With the summer sun on the way, it's also a great white to down before you move onto any red wines at dinner.
Another terrific pairing with oysters is champagne. Champagne is grown on a very chalky type of soil, which also originated from an ancient seabed of mollusks called belimnita quadrata.
Champagne is also searingly high in acidity that counteracts the richness of oysters. It also has mineral flavor of its own that makes the pair dance together like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, especially if the music of a shallot mignonette is involved.
One of the new and exciting champagnes I've had is the Non-Vintage Henriot Brut "Souverain" ($32). This terrific blend of 60 percent pinot noir and 40 percent chardonnay is ripe with fruit, elegant and with a particularly delicious aftertaste of nuts and citrus.
I am a big champagne fan and consumer and can tell you that once a bottle of champagne is opened, the party begins. The Henriot Brut is a potent starter -- along with some oysters on the half shell, it's simply phenomenal.
Riesling seems to pair with more things than not and oysters are no exception. Dry riesling works best, preferably from Germany. Try one the 2004 Josef Leitz Rudesheimer Bischofsberg Riesling Spatlese Trocken ($22). This is more than a mouthful to say, but it glides down easily with a platter of oysters, exotically fruity in scent but tremendously cleansing on the palate. This is a really fun wine and one worth the search.
Now, I know that plenty of people don't like oysters. You can at least try the wines. And those who love the shellfish like me, let's raise a glass to our health, shuck a few shells and slide those oysters back with a healthy glass of crisp white. Cheers!
Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier and wine educator with Southern Wine & Spirits.
This column is a weekly lesson in wine pairing written by a rotating panel of wine professionals. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org