Bill’s Best Bets – November 2015
Yahoo for the “R” month
by Bill Zacharkiw
I’m not a fan of the month of November here in Quebec. Bleak and cold for the most part, no snow to play in, although Mother Nature has been kind so far this year. But one solace I can find in these cold days – when it’s dark by 5pm – is that it is oyster season.
These yummy little bi-valves are in season during the “r” months, those months which end with the letter “r.” Why? You can eat them all year long but during the summer, oysters convert most of their body into one big sex organ. If you eat them then they taste thin and milky. Not my favourite thing. Once they have done their business, they get back to eating and return to their pre-sexual state. So during the fall months, they feed, and their bodies gradually fatten up which is why November and December are the best times to eat oysters. They basically starve themselves from January through Spring, using up their fat deposits.
Oysters don’t taste much of anything, so you can’t drink anything that is too flavourful. Oysters have high levels of iodine which pairs well with mineral wines, while the saltiness matches nicely with delicate citrus and apple notes – think of a Tequila shot where you lick the salt and then bite the lime or lemon. That salt will amplify the fruit in the wine.
Now if you aren’t into oysters, the following wines all work wonders with any seafood, lighter fish or simply as an aperitif. The beauty of this style of wine is that you can find excellent value wine that will do the job. However, you can spend if need be, so let’s start there.
Bill’s favourite pairing is Champagne. Plus, makes for excellent “date nights.” Are oysters really aphrodisiacs? I read that Casanova ate 50 raw oysters for breakfast every day, and he did pretty well for himself. I don’t know if he drank Champagne too. To be honest, I’m not sure if it’s the oysters or the Champagne.
I love drinking very dry, or extra-Brut, bubbles with my oysters. These lean and racy Champagnes might seem edgy on their own, but what they lack in sugar-induced texture is heightened minerality. So try the Agrapart Terroir Blanc de Blancs, or for under $60, Les Vignes de Montagueux from Jacques Lassaigne.
If Champagne is too pricey, there are a number of very dry sparkling wines out there. Cava does the trick and any list of accessibly priced Cavas has to include Segura Viudas. No sparkler under $16 is this good. With a touch more aromatic complexity, yet still rather cutting and edgy, and a rosé at that, the Raventos i Blanc, De Nit Conca Del Riu makes a great match, especially if you like adding a touch of red wine vinegar and echalottes (mignonette sauce) to your oysters.
When talking non-sparkling wines, the list of whites which show minerality is long. Muscadet, Chablis, riesling, Vinho Verde, Picpoul de Pinet – take your pick.
I really love Chablis and I tasted a few recently that will do a great job. The 2014 from Louis Moreau is a great generic Chablis. In the Premier Cru category, Maligny’s 2013 Fourchaume shows both the aromatic complexity and texture that one expects from a Fourchaume while the 2014 Homme Mort will satisfy all those who love the power that great Chablis can bring.
Moving onto riesling, and from Niagara, the 2012 Charles Baker Picone riesling left me wanting 3 more bottles and another couple dozen oysters. I also really loved the Austrian 2014 riesling from Domaine Gobelsburg. At under $20, it’s hard to find a classier riesling at the SAQ.
One of the wine world’s classic pairings is Muscadet with oysters, and there is no shortage of choice at the SAQ. The Domaine Landron, 2014 Amphibolite, is always one of my favourites, while the 2012 Chateau Chasseloir is a classic which never disappoints.
And finally, for those of you who love going off the beaten track, then there are a number of interesting and accessible oyster friendly wines out there. From Greece, the 2014 Atlantis is one of the best under $20 whites out there, and shows the mineral joy of assyrtiko. If there exists a Muscadet in the south, it is the Picpoul de Pinet and 2014 Omarine from Maison Jeanjean is a great example, and under $14. And if you love nuance, then the 2013 Pinot Bianco from Alois Lagadar is absolutely sexy in its restraint.
Stay warm and drink well folks,
“There’s enjoyment to be had of a glass of wine without making it a fetish.” – Frank Prial
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