Across our wine travels we have eaten oysters in Bouzigues, Whitstable, Paris, Rome, Chinon, Glasgow, and all over Brittany, New York, San Francisco and many more. My favourite oyster and wine tasting experiences have been in Chinon and Glasgow, it is truly an international food that crosses cultural boundaries. There are so many different types of oyster too, from the old native British Oyster to the Russian Tsarskaya Oyster. But ….. what to wash them down with? A wine …. surely?
My choice of wine might surprise you but there is a degree of logic about it, because you wouldn’t just buy a wine from the region where you are eating the oyster, or a wine/drink related to the oyster’s origin. If that were the case it would be Guinness with Irish oysters, vodka with Tsarskaya, Picpoul in Bouzigues, Muscadet in the Loire; all of these work but there’s a better choice …. Chablis! So ….. why? It’s all to do with the terroir and specifically the soil in which these vines spend their entire lives.
“The Chardonnay vines of Chablis are located in a sedimentary basin. This low-lying zone, once under the ocean, was gradually covered by the material that today make up the soil and subsoil of the Chablis wine region.”
So there’s the first clue, this region was once under an ocean and the subsoil in Chablis is known as Kimmeridgean, so named after the village of Kimmeridge in Dorset, England.
“The vineyards of Chablis have one sole religion!: the Kimmeridgean,” writes Jacques Fanet in his book “Les Terroirs du Vin” published by Hachette. The Kimmeridgean is a geological age in the Upper Jurassic epoch, around 150 million years ago. In Chablis, one finds subsoils of gray marl which alternate with bands of limestone, and sometimes very rich in fossils”
So any guesses what the fossils are? The subsoil is full of Exogyra Virgula, a small, comma-shaped oyster that is characteristic of the marl from the Middle and Upper Kimmeridgean! Now there’s a surprise, The Chardonnay grapes of Chablis are growing in and fertilised by oyster shells!
“It is in this very particular subsoil, which in places breaks the surface, that the wines of Chablis draw their unique character, their purity, their sophistication and minerality.”
And the final quote from Keith Floyd again:
“Ah the oyster, the crazy oyster. These androgynous aphrodisiacs, once the staple diet of poor apprentices, are now the currency for the Gucci-shoed executive who also swallows big deals as he sips a glass of Chablis in the dim blue-suited bars of the capital.”
What more could you possibly need to know, the Chardonnay vines are grown in the fossilised shells which are the houses of the food you are about to eat! You have 150 million years of evolution and fertilisation advising your wine tasting so don’t wait, just do it. And finally finally, here’s my explanation of Chablis “grades” The Four Levels of Chablis if you’re set for a wine tasting of a few!