The summer swells are starting to fade, the air is crisper and trees have begun turning over a new leaf, which can mean only one thing: fall has officially arrived. With it, comes one of our other all-time favorite seasons: oyster season.
When discussing oyster season, one particular quote from 18th century Satirist Jonathan Swift always comes to mind: “He was a bold man that first ate an oyster.” We couldn’t be more grateful for the man who paved the way.
During the warmer months, usually May through August, oysters begin to spawn. Off-peak oysters are often soft and watery in texture, and less flavorful. As they mature, the oysters become leaner, their texture begins to firm up and they develop their signature briny-yet-bright flavor. This is why you often hear it’s best to eat oysters during months that end with the letter “r”. Good thing it’s already October.
So, what’s the best way to eat oysters? While there are several schools of thought, we believe it all starts with the first one. Always eat your first oyster “naked,” as it will help set your palate for delicious dining ahead. It’s common to use toppings, such as lemon, Tabasco, cocktail sauce, or garlic butter, but we encourage you to save those for your second shuck. Eating without a garnish allows the “Terroir,” or environmental taste factors, to come through. When diving into your first oyster, be sure to first inhale the smell of the sea; the oyster should smell fresh and enticing. Then, enjoy the meat and brine in one swoop, taking in the transition from salty to buttery to, finally, a subtle sweetness. Then, wash it down with a perfectly paired wine.
When pairing wine with oysters, it’s most common to order champagne: its crisp, clean flavor is a classic way to bring out the complexities of your oysters. While we wholeheartedly agree, we must not ignore the world of wonderful wines waiting to be poured. Another favorite pairing of ours is Sauvignon Blanc: the crisp, fresh acidity helps cut the saline in oysters, creating a more beautiful flavor profile. Other premium pairings include Muscadet, Chablis, Txakoli, and if you’re feeling playful, an Irish Stout.
While we encourage you to explore all your available options, one rule unanimously rings true: avoid red wines. The tannins are too harsh and don’t bring out the freshness of the oysters.
What is your favorite way to enjoy oysters? Do you have a favorite wine pairing? Share your oyster indulgences in the comments.