The oyster feast often rhymes with champagne and other expensive white wines. And if we rethink our classics?
Friends have invited you to their annual oyster feast. Great! The only downside: Budgets are tight these days, and the mere thought of spending $40 (or even $25) on a bottle of white wine makes you want to cancel everything. What if, instead of giving up the pleasure of getting together, we looked for inexpensive alternatives to Chablis, Sancerre, Champagne, Vouvray and other bivalve-friendly classic whites? Your friends won’t care and the oysters even less.
For an optimal pairing, avoid woody wines and focus on more subtle than lush white wines. For the rest, relax and have fun. This is the key to a successful evening, much more so than all the major labels.
Sumarroca, Cava Gran Reserva 2019, Brut Nature
Spain 12% – Organic | ★★★ | 1/2 $ | $18.45
SAQ code: 13408929
The days when cava was dismissed as a rustic sparkling wine are over, thanks above all to the remarkable work of certain Catalan houses such as Juvé y Camps, Parés Baltà or Sumarroca. The latter’s Gran Reserva Brut Nature proves to be great value for money, regardless of the vintage. The nose is distinctive, between chard apple, brioche and raisin bread; the bubble remains and the wine offers a good balance between volume, tension and vitality. The appetizer is served, remove the chips (alone) and the seafood.
Parés Baltà, Calcari 2022, Xarel-Lo, Penedès
Spain 12.5% - Organic | ★★★ | 1/2 $ | $19.40
SAQ code: 11377225
This wine from the Cusiné family is made with 100% xarel·lo, cultivated in the limestone soils bordering the Mediterranean, not far from Barcelona. Always a little shy and abrupt when opened, Calcari reveals itself over time, in contact with oxygen, and clearly benefits from being served cooler than cold.
The delicate apple flavors are highlighted by a fine bitterness and the finish leaves a salty note. A very good dry white wine to go from the aperitif to the table, with clam pasta.
Domäne Wachau, Grüner Veltliner 2022, Selection, Wachau
Austria 12.5% | ★★★ | 1/2 $ | $18.55
SAQ code: 13750089
Grüner Veltliner, Austria’s signature grape variety, has colonized much of the land along the Danube east of Vienna. It can produce fresh and light white wines enhanced with characteristic aromas of white pepper, such as this wine from Domäne Wachau. The 2022 reveals flavors of ripe white fruits and unfolds on the palate a texture vinous enough for razors, but fresh enough for oysters. At under $20, this is a must have.
Cave Robert et Marcel, Saumur 2022, Louis Roche
France 12% | ★★1/2 | 1/2 $ | $16.80
SAQ code: 918243
This white Loire wine appears to have always been listed in the SAQ directory, with a six-digit code to back it up. It’s certainly not the most complex Saumur on the market, but the 2022 offers a straightforward, classic expression of Chenin Blanc, at a low price. To appreciate it better, feel free to aerate it for 30 minutes in a carafe before serving it with simple oysters, sprinkled with a squeeze of lemon.
Château Gigognan, Bois des Moines 2021, Côtes du Rhône-Villages
France 14% – Organic | ★★★★ | $$$ | $35.50
SAQ code: 15175014
Finally, to treat yourself and accompany oysters au gratin and seafood risottos, a delicious white wine produced by an estate located in Sorgues, north-east of Avinyó. A blend of Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Clairette and Bourboulenc, the expressive aromas of pineapple, orange juice, honey and beeswax contrast with an elegant, refined and surprisingly fresh and digestible palate, despite its 14% alcohol content. A white wine that is both generous, digestible and gastronomic, as the South knows how to produce.
★★★ Very good
More stars than dollars – well worth the price.
As many stars as dollars – worth the price.
Less stars than dollars: wine is expensive.