Special Feature


What to Drink with Oysters


by Ilene Polansky


There are hundreds of oyster varieties, each with distinctive characteristics. At the Maestro S.V.P. restaurant in Montreal, Canada, the oyster bar carries at least fifteen different varieties at any given time. The top layer and after-flavors of each can be subtle or distinct and pairing the ideal wine with oysters is always a topic of debate.

Champagne can be the perfect marriage, but it is not always necessary to serve expensive white wine with oysters. For me, a tall glass of Spanish dry sherry is perfect with all shellfish, especially oysters. Personally, I find a bottle of Muscadet is a good choice. I also suggest a Riesling from Alsace which is bone dry and a suitable complement for oysters. You may also want a Chardonnay, whether Californian, French or Australian, but in particular one with the rich wood flavor of Napa or Australian wines. Remember that you are trying to marry the distinctive seaweedy, salty and mineral tastes with which the wine will have to compete.

To make things more complicated, everyone experiences oysters differently. It's as if oysters challenge the palate, dancing sweetly at first, before splashing the tongue with a taste of the briny sea. For wine enthusiasts, this poses quite a challenge. So much so that seafood consultant Jon Rowley holds an annual wine and oyster pairing competition. The results of the Pacific Coast Oyster Wine Competition held in April 2006 (in alphabetical order):

  • Blackstone Winery 05 Monterey County Pinot Grigio (CA)
  • **Dry Creek Vineyard 05 Dry Chenin Blanc (CA)
  • **Geyser Peak 05 Sauvignon Blanc (CA)
  • *Guenoc 05 Sauvignon Blanc (CA)
  • Kathryn Kennedy Winery 05 Sauvignon Blanc (CA)
  • Kelson Creek Winery 05 Sauvignon Blanc (CA)
  • **Kenwood 05 Sonoma Sauvignon Blanc (CA)
  • *Kunde Estate Winery & Vineyards 05 Magnolia Lane Sauvignon Blanc (CA)
  • Wattle Creek 04 Sauvignon Blanc (CA)
  • Willamette Valley Vineyard 05 Pinot Gris (OR)

*Prior "Oyster Award" Winners
**Multiple prior "Oyster Awards"

As Jon Rowley states on his website, the best oyster wines are dry, crisp, clean-finishing white wines. For more great wine picks every month, don't miss Fred McMillin's On Wine.


All About Oysters

Maestro Oyster Recipes
More Oyster Recipes

This page modified February 2007

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