We love oysters. We love oysters in summer even better. Perhaps unsurprisingly, we love oysters in summer paired with a beautiful bottle of wine the very very most.
Turns out Karen Adler and Judith Fertig, authors of 25 Essentials: Techniques for Grilling Fish, have very similar ideas about what’s good to eat come summertime.
“It used to be that you could buy and eat oysters only in months with an “R” in them. That’s because during the summer months of spawning, wild oysters develop an “off” flavor. Transporting oysters in hot weather, before the days of refrigerated trucks, was also problematic. Today, about 80 percent of oysters are farm-raised in submerged nets, dining on plankton in carefully controlled marine environments. They spawn at different times during the year, so there’s always a variety available that’s good to eat. When ready, they’re harvested and shipped by air to seafood markets. If you’re not comfortable shucking oysters at home, have the fishmonger shuck them for you and ask him or her to give you a half shell for each oyster.
Wood Grilled Oyster Recipe
In this recipe, you’ll get smoky flavor from two sources: the wood-grilling technique and the chipotle chile in the vinaigrette.”
When we first came across Adler and Fertig’s recipe for Wood-Grilled Oysters in Chipotle Vinaigrette on Epicurious, we were admittedly a bit gun-shy due to the double dose of spicy and smoke. We’re no strangers to grilled oysters, and in fact that smoky, saline-soaked unctuousness is downright finger-lickin’ good, but we worried the chipotle vinaigrette might be a little too heavy for our poor briny bivalves to hold up to.
As it turns out, this pairing is a perfect example of how wine and food not only complement each other but in certain cases they can even make the other shine bigger and brighter. How? We chose to chow down on our chipotle-topped oysters accompanied by a chilled German Riesling, and the results were nothing short of spine-tingling. While Alsatian Riesling is generally higher in alcohol which can create a bit of a burn-on-burn situation when paired with something spicy like chipotle, the residual sweetness and lower alcohol levels in German Riesling fairs much better.
Wine Pairings with Oysters
We picked two bottles at different price points, each amply equipped to help your grilled oysters shine.
The 2012 Heinz Eifel Auslese Riesling is the more affordable of the two, but don’t mistake the low price point for low quality. This highly rated wine (90 pts from Wine Spectator, thank you very much), is rich and aromatic, with tons of honey, stone fruit, and tropical touches like mango and lime to keep things lively. The lighter notes pair beautifully with the oyster; the sweet, acidity-driven finish keeps the heat from the chipotle from becoming overbearing.
Basically, the 2012 Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer Spatlese Riesling does everything the Heinz does, just a little better. There’s more complexity, more layers of flavor, and a balance and agility to the wine that is downright mouthwatering. There’s a bit less sweetness on the finish here, but the interplay with the chipotle is still beyond enjoyable.
Head to Epicurious for the full rundown on how to make this crowd-pleasing dish.
Buy the Wine:
Buy the Book: 25 Essentials: Techniques for Grilling Fish by Karen Adler and Judith Fertig, $11.65