THINK ABOUT EATING RAW OYSTERS, SITTING IN THEIR SHELLS — BLUE/GREY, COLD, QUIVERING. LOOKING LIKE, WELL, BEST LEFT UNSAID. IS IT ANY WONDER, GIVEN THE COURAGE NECESSARY, THAT OYSTERS HAVE BEEN DEFINED AS GOOD FOR EVERYTHING FROM BONES AND BRAINS, TO APPETITES AND SEX?
The most literate description of oysters can be found in M.F.K. Fisher’s 60-page, quasi cookbook, Consider the Oyster, copyrighted in 1941, but as fresh as ever. In it, like a doctor of gastronomy, Fisher prescribes very dry white wine — a French Chablis, Pouilly Fuisse, or Champagne—as the safest match for oysters, especially when the two are served at the same chilly temperature. Despite this book being written over 70 years ago, there are few writers or sommeliers to my knowledge who would beg to differ. The interesting thing about Chablis, Pouilly Fuisse and Champagne is that these wines are made from the same grape, Chardonnay (although Champagne is usually blended with Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier). It stands to reason then that one could substitute Chardonnay from a far more readily accessible local region, but here is where the logic gets screwy. The grape growing regions of Australia,and other new world countries, are so much warmer that they generally lack the slatey minerality, lemony tartness and sense of lightness needed for appropriate oyster matching.
On the other hand, white wines made from the Sauvignon Blanc grape, tend to have
a tarter edge and lighter quality than the warm climate Chardonnays and Southern French wines. It is unclear why the original French styles of Sauvignon Blanc’s failed to make it into Fisher’s original treatise, however, I suspect the M.F.K. drank what she liked best—which is always the best policy anyway.