Tip-top wines for the new oyster season

Nusrat Ghani

September is a marvellous month for all kinds of local produce, including seafood. The new native oyster season kicked off on Wednesday and these native bivalves, nowadays an expensive delicacy, are available for sale from September 1 to April 30.

By UK law, the native European flat oyster (Ostrea edulis) – whose shells are rounded and more regular in appearance than those of the larger, teardrop-shaped Pacific (rock) oyster – cannot be harvested for sale outside of this period, which allows stocks to recuperate and remain sustainable.

If you can’t splash out on these pricy molluscs have no fear, as our critic offers more affordable food pairing ideas. Shuck, rattle and roll, here are five fab wines that go swimmingly with seasonal oysters…


1) Tangy, palate-cleansing Andalusian beauty – a benchmark, bone-dry, shellfish-loving manzanilla sherry

Bodegas Hidalgo-La Gitana Manzanilla Sherry, Sanlúcar de BarramedaSpain (15%, £8.00-£10, Sainsbury’sHedonism WinesTannersMajestic – 50cl; Waitrose & Virgin Wines – 75 cl)

A stunning aperitivo or accompaniment to tapas and all manner of seafood and meat, umami-rich dry sherries are not just for Christmas (or funerals). I offer you this old Andalusian maxim on matching sherries and food – fino and manzanilla if it swims, amontillado if it flies, and oloroso if it runs or walks. Manzanilla is a fino (the lightest, driest and palest) sherry produced and aged in and around the humid Andalusian coastal town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda. There is a ton of character here, with a marine saltiness and wafts of chamomile, blanched almonds, green apples and freshly-baked sourdough. One for umami lovers and very keenly priced. Buy the most recent bottling and serve well-chilled, between 6°and 8°C, in a catavino or comparatively wide glass (just as you’d do with a still white wine). Dazzling with briny native oysters, sushi, sashimi, smoked salmon, barbecued sardines, pasta vongole, mackerel, green olives, Jámon Iberico…

2) A wake-up call to the jaded palate – bright, minerally, zingy, sea-breezy Picpoul

2020 Villemarin Picpoul de Pinet, Cave de L’Ormarine, Eastern Languedoc, France (12.5%, Majestic, £9.99/bottle, or £8.99 mix six)

Green-gold Picpoul de Pinet from the low-lying parcel of land between Pézenas and the vast Bassin de Thau saltwater Med lagoon, France’s second-largest lake – itself renowned for its oyster (huîtres de Bouzigues)/mussel beds and seafood restaurants – just southwest of Montpellier is one of France’s rare varietally termed AOC wines. Ormarine, in partnership with Maison Jeanjean, is the leading producer of Picpoul de Pinet, the most widely made white wine in eastern Languedoc and a much-admired vinous choice for summer drinking. Nab this outstandingly delicious tangy, clean and bracing white with all manner of floral, citrusy, spiced lemon-zest, subtle iodine and samphire elements at play, couched within a framework of saliva-inducing acidity, which works just like a squeeze of lemon juice with seafood. A whizz with seasonal native oysters on the half-shell, fish and chips, mussels and crab, it also makes a really first-class party or picnic white on a hot Indian summer evening.

3) Captivating organic bivalve-loving left-bank Bordeaux white

2020 Emigré Blanc, Château du Seuil, Graves, Bordeaux, France (12%, Virgin Wines, £14.99)

South of the city of Bordeaux, Graves AOP – the only zone of Bordeaux where both red and white wines are produced by most châteaux – spreads like a sleeve hanging off the Médoc’s arm. Situated mostly on its eponymic gravelly soil (quarrying is also big business here), this is a racy and refined 75/25% blend of sauvignon blanc and sémillon that is unoaked and has a really pretty texture. Snappy, pristine grapefruit, passionfruit, lemon, honeysuckle, ocean spray and mineral flavours glisten as they shoot through the palate. The fine rinse of grapefruity acidity keeps it all taut, delivering a lengthy and racy finish. A compelling match for raw oysters (and much favoured by the Bordelais themselves). Likewise a terrific aperitif, it’s also just the ticket for mackerel pâté and seafood such as lemon sole or cod with beurre blanc. Organic.

4) Move over boisterously aromatic, ‘tutti-frutti’ Kiwi sauvignon blanc – try this nuanced and very stylish one instead

2019 Rimapere Single-Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand (13%, £15.99-£19, Ocado,  Cheers Wine Merchants, & Harvey Nichols)

Soak up the last sunny days of summer with a glass of New Zealand Rimapere Sauvignon Blanc from Edmond de Rothschild Heritage. ‘Rimapere’ means ‘five arrows’ in Maori, a two-fold tribute to both the Rothschild family crest and the local culture. Crystalline and simultaneously elegant, delicate and intense (quite an accomplishment), it’s already a clear charmer and a gorgeous treat with seasonal native oysters, especially when zipped up with citrus juices, vinegar, or served with more robust, spicy Asian flavours.

Gently fragrant, dry and sophisticated with zippy and zesty acidity, this distinguished beauty is an altogether less exuberant version of a well-loved wine style; a more softly-spoken, chic, non-tutti-frutti rendition that whets the appetite and beckons food. Grapefruit, lemongrass, snow pea, passionfruit and mown grass characters lead a disciplined charge and a steely character adds some class. Top billing also for serving with goat’s cheese, leafy salads or brie. Fully merits its price (with a tasty £3 markdown until 28 September at Ocado). Most UK wine merchants will be transitioning to the superb 2020 vintage come October. It’s spot-on.

5) Svelte, structured, oyster-ready, completely unsweetened, tip-top apéritif Champagne

NV Champagne Pol Roger, Pure, Extra Brut, Épernay, Champagne, France (12.5%, £42.50-£52, The Champagne CompanyWaitroseMajesticBerry Bros & Rudd & The Wine Society)

The pop of a champagne cork is an eternal appetite-sharpener. You’ve splashed out on native oysters so why not treat yourself to the best dry champagne? Unlike so-called Brut champagnes, which can have up to 12-15 g/l of sugar, bone-dry Brut Nature ones – like this supreme oyster-friendly example from Winston Churchill’s favourite house – have up to just 3 g/l. Here that dryness and salty undercurrent, not to mention the bubbly aspect, provides the ideal textural contrast to the smooth and silky texture of the oysters. Made from a third each of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, this is a spellbinding match for native raw/cooked oysters and also a great partner for dim sum, crab, kedgeree, tandoori chicken, sushi and sashimi. Zero dosage. Santé!



Don’t forget oyster-friendly Muscadet, other very dry sparkling wines, classic Chablis and beer!

• 2020 Domaine Gadais La Grande Réserve du Moulin ‘Sur Lie’ Muscadet Sèvre et Maine (£11.99, Laithwaites)

• 2019 Jean-Marc Brocard, Chablis Sainte-Claire (£14.95, The Wine Society)

• 2018 Tesco Finest Premier Cru Chablis (£15, Tesco)

• Laurent-Perrier Ultra Brut Champagne (£39.99, mix 6, Majestic)

• Cantillon Gueuze Lambic beer, Belgium – rare as hen’s teeth in post-Brexit UK


Some of the UK’s best remaining native oyster-producing areas

• Fal, Cornwall

• Helford, Cornwall

• Loch Ryan, Scotland

• Maldon, Essex

• Mersea (aka Colchester), Essex

• Whitstable, Kent

Simplyoysters.com offers the UK’s widest selection of fresh native, Pacific and Kumamoto oysters (27 different types at the last count)


Follow James on Twitter @QuixoticWine


Top Photo Background: © Roman023/dreamstime.com 

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