Nothing transports you to sitting on the water like Chablis. It’s made from Chardonnay grapes (Chablis is the area) but it’s very crisp, minerally, and absolute perfection with oysters.
Steely, dry, high-acid white wines are the typical oyster pairing, but Chablis is one of the most excellent for them. The Kimmeridgian soil in the area, comprised of clay and oyster shells, is what gives Chablis its freshness, minerality and marine notes.
Domaine William Fèvre has been making Chablis for over 50 years. Director & Cellar Master Didier Séguier and oyster expert (apparently, there is such a thing) Rowan Jacobsen walked us through an incredible tasting where they paired the different styles of Chablis that go with different types of oysters.
A few fun facts I learned about oysters that make them better or worse with wines (there’s almost as much to learn about them as with wine): there are five different species, the water they grow in (the “mer-oir”) gives them their character, and the human influence like putting them in tumble bags to protect more delicate shells or letting them grow naturally.
As for how to eat them, keep them at about 40-45 degrees to keep them firm. And, Rowan said he thinks people use too much lemon and mignonette, which will kill an oyster’s salinity. You should just use a sip of wine right after as the “sauce.”
chablis: William Fèvre Chablis Champs Royaux Limited Edition SEA 2017. Refreshing with a light lemon spritz and great acid – perfect for a sunny day on the water. ($24, buy here)
oyster: Hama Hama from the Pacific Coast, hasn’t converted its fat yet so it’s lean and crisp.
chablis: William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Montmains 2016. Much more white florals and ripe fleshy lemon with lots of minerality.
oyster: Duxbury Gem. These come from a shallow bay where the tides come in and out twice a day, so the oysters are very briny.
chablis: William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Montée de Tonnerre 2016. Chalky, white florals with lower acid and only a hint of lemon. ($64.99, buy here)
oyster: Sea Cow. Hammersley Inlet where the tides flow through marshes and bring lots of plankton for the oysters to eat. This was much fattier, richer, and less briny.
chablis: William Fèvre Grand Cru Bougros “Côte Bouguerots” 2016. Fleshier and more perfumed, with a gorgeous lemon lift. A great shot of acid down the middle makes it perfect for aging. ($124, buy here)
oyster: Mystic. These are richer than the Duxbury ones even though the waters are close to each other. The warmer waters give these oysters a more intense flavor with iron and mineral notes.
chablis: William Fèvre Grand Cru Les Clos 2016. Large, rich with a subtle acidity and subtle iron minerality.
oyster: Blue Pool. These are Hama Hama oysters but grown in tumble bags, which makes them firmer, milder and more herbaceous. This one had less acid and less brininess.
chablis: William Fèvre Grand Cru Bougros “Côte Bouguerots” 2009. More complex and less obviously jumping out at you with acid, this was richer with some white florals and elegant marine notes.
oyster: Wellfleet. These are from the tip of Cape Cod, growing without any fresh water, and are very oceanic. It was lovely with the aged Cru Bougros, though even Rowan said, “It’s such a beautiful wine, I’d set the oyster aside!”
You had me at Chablis.