“he was a bold man that first ate an oyster.” Jonathan swift
On 20th March, Assistant Head Sommelier, Beatrice Bessi, welcomed Members to the Club to try their hand at shucking an oyster, as well as hearing from The Oyster Boy about the history, sourcing and presenting of the mollusk.
Oysters are as varied as their oceanic terroir – they can be crisp or silky, briny or sweet, ‘citrusy’ or redolent of cucumber. And no matter what the flavour or texture, they all beg for just the right wine.
When I met Conor John Pearson of Oyster Boy for the first time at a tasting three months prior to the event, myself and the team here were all incredibly impressed by Conor’s knowledge and enthusiasm on the subject of oysters…
Starting as a street food trader shucking oysters on a stall outside a wine bar in Columbia Road in 2012, Oyster Boy has now expanded into 3 new market stalls among many other residencies. They have a fantastic perspective on the presentation of oysters, combining street market patter with fine dining expertise. For the last 8 years, Oyster Boy has been visiting the finest of Europe’s many oyster farms, tasting the various bivalves to bring the best flavours and textures back to his London locations.
Most of us usually rely on a particular restaurant or the skills of the chef to have oysters opened and served in the correct way; however, in this workshop, Members and their guests learnt the differences in oyster species and their farming methods, the different textures and tastes they possess, and the finest wines with which to pair them. Additionally, Members were taught how to professionally and safely shuck (open) an oyster.
After a few tastings, we selected 6 different oysters, between the Native and the Rocks, paired with 7 different wines.
On arrival, it seemed fitting to serve the classic pairing of a glass of Champagne: NV Taittinger, Prélude, Grand Cru, Brut to be precise. We served this with a Colchester west Mersea native oyster and a rock oyster – the perfect introduction to the evening.
After the aperitif, we took our seats and Conor introduced us to the world of oysters; how to recognise the different varieties, how to open them and how to shuck them.
We tasted the Colchester West Mersea Rock oyster with one good and one not-so-good pairing, without communicating this to Members and their guests, so we could see the numerous reactions and create an interesting point of discussion…
2015 Grüner Veltliner, Tradition, Schloss Gobelsburg
The wine itself enhances the oyster – this expression already shows a delicious green lime and cucumber character which could not be a better match for the freshness of the oyster. This pairing took gold in the Olympics of oysters…
2015 Bourgogne Blanc, Benjamin Leroux
The oak ageing, as expected wasn’t a great matching with the oysters…
We paired the Ostra Regal with 2016 Riesling Kabinett, Bernkasteler Lay, Dr Loosen
This oyster has been described as an explosion of sweetness and freshness, with a subtle salty character, so the natural choice for this was a Riesling from the Mosel, off-dry in style.
The pairing was exactly what we had hoped for, an explosion of freshness, balance between sweet and salty…this was the second-best pairing.
The Lindisfarne rocks were served with a glass of 2015 Sancerre, Les Boucauds, Claude Riffault
Another beautiful pairing, showing green mango and nectarine characters which enhanced the balanced combination with this particular oyster.
Fal Native with 2013 Condrieu, Domaine Clusel Roch
This type of oyster was the most difficult to be paired, as it is quite meaty in texture. Conor and I decided to choose a bigger style of white wine, with riper characters, higher alcohol, a more full-bodied expression and a hint of oak ageing.
Gillardeau with 2015 Chablis ‘Saint Pierre’ Le Domaine D’Henri
The king of the oysters from France, where a traditional fresh style of Chablis, with a vibrant minerality, and pure citrus character couldn’t be a better pairing to finish with.
We received fantastic feedback from this event – there is definitely the appetite to do more – stay tuned for the second instalment…