As we enter September, we applaud the arrival of oyster season. The old rule is that oysters are in season only in months with an ‘R’, so, September to April. And while this sounds somewhat like an old wives tale- the theory rings true. In fact, in the summer months, oysters spawn, which means that the flesh becomes soft and milky: therefore less flavourful than the lean, briny oysters that we enjoy within the season.
Oysters and sparkling wine are synonymous with one another as the perfect pairing and, believe it or not, there is a scientific reason behind this. While pairings can vary according to garnishes, at a basic level, both sparkling wine and oysters contain small amounts of umami: one of the five flavours detectable by human taste buds. The umami in traditional sparkling wine comes from lees autolysis and is present in the muscles of oysters and when consumed together, create an ‘umami synergy’ (Decanter) as the flavour compounds make one another more prominent. Unscientifically, however, the luxury associated with both fizz and oysters means the two make an undeniably festive pairing.
Of course, traditional garnishes include a simple bright, fresh slice of lemon- one for purists, surely. A drop of tabasco for the adventurous, or shallot vinegar for a sweet and sour edge. Everyone indeed has their own preference- and there is a perfect pairing for each, though many opt for a crisp, clean all-rounder, like Hambledon Vineyard’s Classic Cuvée. The well-balanced and vibrant nature of the cuvée makes it an excellent match for fresh raw oysters. The smooth, brioche notes and citrus acid being the perfect friend to oysters in their purest form- the structured yet ripe acidity and floral aromas will complement the oysters' brininess and enhance their freshness. As an elevated apéritif, or a light meal in its own right, there is no better experience.
Of course, oysters don’t just have to be enjoyed raw; there are many cooked iterations to choose from, for all tastes. For an elevated pairing, why not sample our Première Cuvée alongside a cooked oyster dish, such as Oysters Rockefeller- a simple classic comprised of grilled oysters in their half shells, served with butter, parsley, other green herbs such as tarragon, all topped with breadcrumbs. Reflecting the soft smoothness provided by the aromas of ripe yellow summer fruits, and the autolytic sourdough aromas within the wine, there is nothing more decadent.
Or, to truly push the boat out, try the umami rich Oysters Kilpatrick, a dish consisting of Oysters doused in Worcestershire sauce, and topped with bacon, parsley and lemon. The complex, and decidedly rich flavours within the dish are best countered with our Première Cuvée Rosé- the rich red fruits provided a crisp acid to cut through the indulgent notes within the dish, while the layers of umami developed over seven years of lees age create a harmony between the two.
As a versatile ingredient that is sometimes to a degree underappreciated, in our eyes, this excellent facet of British produce is something to be celebrated, enthusiastically.