France, Loire

Red wine with oysters

Scrolling through photos on my phone during lockdown I realised three things about myself. One, I spent a lot of time in France last year. And two, I really had some great red wine with oysters.

It has been drummed into me since day one of wine life: oysters are for white or sparkling wine. Wouldn’t red wine be overkill for the delicate oyster?

Or, the other way around – the oyster would be too brutally metallic for the red wine?

But wait. Hold on. It’s not as if I’m a huge adherent to wine and food pairing rules. Or even, rules full stop.

Three Red Wines to Pair with Oysters

In my mind I could physically feel the combination painfully jar. Like the sensation of chewing down on a piece of aluminium foil. Or licking the end of a live battery. A dull metallic buzz.

But it is so much more. I’m so grateful to the woman at the oyster bar in Paris who thrust this in my hand.

The secret to wine pairing is to match the acidity to the food. Plump oysters are not acidic and are cradled in briny sea water. The “minerality” is the key to matching red wine with oysters. The best red wines to match with oysters are light-bodied, earthy rather than fruity, and from cooler climates (with higher acidity).

  1. Loire Pinot Noir or Gamay

One thing I love about going to Paris is the abundance of Loire wines in bistros and restaurants, especially natural wines. The light bodied, funky glouglou is perfect to wash down with a dozen oysters.

Beaujolais, rather than Loire, is usually more known as the home of Gamay and some of the more natural styles will also work well.

2. Jura Poulsard or Trousseau

There may not be many oyster beds to be found in the mountains of Jura in eastern France, but the light red natural wines are perfect friends with oysters.

3. Chilled reds from outside France?

This is a wild card, but I encourage you to experiment. Take a light-bodied, or even a medium-bodied red and put it in the fridge until the dew forms on the bottle. There are no hard and fast rules. Try Teroldego from Italy, Bobal or Mencia from Spain, Cinsault from South Africa or Lebanon. Pinot Noir from Californian or light Italian grapes all the rage in Australia.


And the third thing from lockdown? Those photos on my phone only make me long for a restaurant, a holiday, a platter of oysters and a good bottle of wine.

Read more: natural wines in Paris


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