Text: Ivy Tsang
Oyster is not just delicious, it is often referred to as “the milk of the sea” for its high nutrient content. Winter is always the season for oysters from the Northern hemisphere. Let’s see some famous French oysters and their pairings!
Fine de Claire
It is a relatively common French oyster in HK. Mostly cultivated in Marennes, the oyster can be categorised, by maturity, in Fine de Claire, Speciale de Claire and Pousse en Claire. The meatier it is when it gets mature.
It is great for beginner for its crunchy texture, mild sweetness and balanced mineral. You may find it a bit grassy and “seaweedy” at the finish. It is best to pair with some light body Sauvignon Blanc for its crunchy texture and grassy finish.
This variety gets its name from its rather white flesh. It is at first briny, then sweet with a hint of nutty and mineral finish. The more you eat the sweeter it gets. It also has a crunchy texture but smoother than Fine de Claire. I love to pair it with slightly oaked medium bodied Chardonnay for its little creamy texture, fruit sweetness and modest oaky nuttiness.
One of the brands of oyster which was named after the cultivator, Gillardeau family, and it is not a common practice. The company was started by Henri Gillardeau in 1898 and is now in the hands of the fourth generation.
It takes 4 years for the Gillardeau to mature to get the unique and refined flavours. One of the most recommended oysters by Michelin starred Chefs, it is also known as “the Rolls-Royce of Oysters”. Chewy and crunchy, you should first taste the scent of sea followed by hint of mineral and sweetness then finish with a soft hazelnut flavour. What an enjoyment to taste the complexity in layers! A nice vintage Champagne would be a fantastic pairing as both have the compatible complexity and layers without being too strong or oaky that may overwhelm the delicate oyster.
The 3 types of oysters above are all Rock Oysters (L’huître Creuse), which have their shells in tear-shape, are originated from the Pacific. Most of the French oysters cultivated are Rock Oysters. Belon is one of the Flat Oysters (L’huître Plate), which are native to Europe. It has a very low production and thus higher in price.
Belon has a crunchy texture and very strong briny, mineral and metal flavours. Since it is very strong in flavour, I prefer pairing it with a relatively aged Riesling which has the nose and flavours of steely metallic minerality and kerosene to match with the metal flavours.
Of course, as always, the pairing can be very versatile! You may even pair the fresh oysters with Sake or beer! As long as it suits your palate and makes you happy!