Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Paris, Oysters, and Muscadet

If you happen to be in Paris in winter, don't pass up the chance to eat oysters. Whether you choose to go to a simple bar à huitres (oyster bar) or one of these glamourous brasserie, you can check how fresh and bright they are as oysters are traditionally kept on display on stalls that stand outside the restaurant.

In France, they typically come from three main production areas, all located on the Atlantic coast: Arachon near Bordeaux, Brittany, and Marennes-Oléron. One of my favorite oyster varieties is the green-tinged Fine de Claire from Marennes. They have a firm flesh and a bright ocean sea taste. Actually, that's what I had last week in a brasserie near the Saint-Lazare train station. The oysters were heavenly and the wine, a 2007 Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine sur Lie Château du Cléray Réserve, was delicious.

Muscadet is usually a light, refreshing and affordable wine produced at the western end of the Loire Valley and made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape variety. Because the grape itself does not have much flavor, most Muscadets today are vinified sur lie to add complexity. This means that after fermentation, the wine is not racked off the lees at the bottom of the vat. To be allowed to mention sur lie on the label, the wine must stay on its lees until at least the 1st of March following harvest before being bottled.

Nevertheless, the best producers can craft a much richer and deeper wine than the average production and I have to say that our Château du Cléray Réserve was a real treat with the oyster: tangy and sappy with citrus and mineral aromas, quite creamy and rich on the palate with a savoury aftertaste.

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