Best Oyster and Wine Pairings

I was recently at an oyster and wine pairing class at the Astor Center, taught by Nellie Wu of W&T Seafood and Kimberly Severson from Astor Center.  During the tasting, I learned that I like oysters that are creamy, buttery, meaty and less briny (mostly from the west coast).

Nowadays, 97% of all oysters are commercially farmed.  A lot of the farmers tumble the oysters, which makes the shells deeper and the meat plumper.  This extra labor contributes to the cost of these meatier oysters (along with transporting them from the west coast).

BTW, have you ever heard of merroir?  Mer-roir is to oysters as terrior is to wines!

Here are some great oysters and wines to go with it (the picture above shows the lineup of the oysters, starting from the top left corner going clockwise):

1. Kusshi and Andre Clouet Silver Brut Nature, Grande Reserve NV 

Kusshi** (Deep Bay, Vancouver Island, British Colombia, Canada)

  • “Kusshi” is Japanese for “precious”
  • Grown in suspended-culture trays where they are tumbled twice daily abroad a boat near the oyster floats, giving it a stunning, smooth shell
  • Light, ultra-clean, creamy flavor
  • Deep cup and plump, pillow-like meat

Andre Clouet Silver Brut Nature, Grande Reserve NV (Champagne, France) $44.96

  • Champagne is a cool climate wine region, producing wines that are light and crisp
  • Dry Champagne is a classic pairing for oysters, along with Muscadet
  • Bubbles from the Champagne are an automatic palate cleanser for oysters’ saltiness
  • Tart, green apple taste


Dry to sweet is typically Brut, Extra Dry or Extra Sec, Sec, Demi-Sec and Doux. “Brut” is actually drier than “Extra Dry.” Some producers break down Brut—the driest of categories—even further, into “Extra Brut” and “Brut Natural.”


The amount of sugar (dosage) added after the second fermentation and aging varies and will dictate the sweetness level of the Champagne.

  • Brut Natural or Brut Zéro (less than 3 grams of sugar per litre)
  • Extra Brut (less than 6 grams of sugar per litre)
  • Brut (less than 12 grams of sugar per litre)

(Source: Wikipedia)

2. Kumamoto and Vouvray Brut, Ch. Greffe NV

Kumamoto*** (Chapman’s Cove and Totten Inlet, Washington)

  • Originally from Southern Japan
  • Buttery, round and smooth with hints of honeydew melon
  • Deep cup with full, firm meat
  • Very popular oyster because of its sweetness

Vouvray Brut, Ch. Greffe NV (Loire, France) $21.96

  • Made from Chennin Blanc grape
  • Fruitier than the first Champagne

3. Shigoku and Pouilly-Fume, Ch. Favray 2009

Shigoku**** (Willapa Bay, Southwest Washington State)

  • “Shigoku” means “ultimate” in Japanese
  • Low-energy, low-maintenance growing technique (variation on British Columbia’s more labor-intensive Kusshi) continuously chips off the oysters’ growing edge and forces them to “cup up” and push against the limits of their shell as they grow
  • Grown in floating bags attached to stationary lines that rise and fall with the tides, tumbled twice daily
  • Light, clean taste of cucumber and salt
  • Best seller at W&T (exclusive carrier in NYC of this oyster)

Pouilly-Fume, Ch. Favray 2009 (Loire, France) $16.96

  • 100% Sauvignon Blanc
  • Grass, green bell pepper taste
  • If you don’t want a sparkling wine, go with a cool climate Sauvignon Blanc wine like this one.
  • Wine with a lot of acidity acts like a squeeze of lemon on the oysters

4. Barnstable Oyster and Assyrtiko-Athiri, Domaine Sigalas 2010

Barnstable*** (Barnstable, Cape Cod, Massachusetts)

  • Grown on a very small farm managed by a husband and wife team from NYC
  • Salty liquor typical of Massachusetts oysters
  • Firm meat is slightly sweet with subtle notes of white peach

Assyrtiko-Athiri, Domaine Sigalas 2010 (Santorini, Greece) $17.96

  • More tropical flavor profile
  • Made from Assyrtiko and Athiri grapes, which are indigenous to Santorini
  • Greek whites tend to have a lot of acidity

5. Cedar Island and Chablis, Domaine Desvignes 2011

Cedar Island** (Point Judith Pond, South Kingstown, Rhode Island)

  • Represents the next generation of responsible and egalitarian shellfish farms
  • Butter flavor and light, coppery finish
  • Plump and briny meat
  • Releases seawater-infused liquor at onset

Chablis, Domaine Desvignes 2011 (Burgundy, France) $16.96

  • Oysters are best paired with a cool climate, non-oaky Chardonnay like a Chablis
  • Minerally finish (Burgundy used to be entirely underwater so its soil is composed of fossilized shellfish) and richier body pairs well with east coast oysters

6. Montauk Pearl and Arbois Rouge “Les Corvees” Dom. de St. Pierre 2010

Montauk Pearl** (Montauk, Long Island, New York)

  • Naturally tumbled
  • Liquor tasting of coastal brininess
  • Firm meat has light saltiness and a crisp, rounded finish
  • Strong shell which makes shucking easy
  • Best seller at W&T

Arbois Rouge “Les Corvees” Dom. de St. Pierre 2010 (Jura, France) $23.96

  • Only red wine in lineup: made of Poulsard and Pinot Noir
  • If you decide to pair oysters with red wine, make sure the wine is not tannic and not oaky.  A cool climate Pinot Noir would work.
  • Red wine does pair with oysters.  Last time the class tasted a red with an Olympia oyster from Washington that worked very well.

*Oyster facts and tasting notes provided by Nellie Wu/W&T Seafood.


About thenummylist

Blog about eating, drinking, and everything related written by Icy Liu.

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