Wine and Oysters the Perfect Match


James Graham is a member of the Matakana Winegrowers committee and has been making wine for over 20 years. He is currently consultant winemaker to Takatu Vineyard, Runner Duck Vineyard, Te Kie Vineyard and Babich wines.

We are fortunate to live in a region that is blessed with both dynamic local wines and the delicious oysters of the Mahurangi harbour.

Oysters have always been a delicacy for those in the world's coastal regions. From the American Eastern seaboard, through the Pacific Ocean and South China Sea, the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts of Europe and Africa, oysters have long been a plentiful and coveted source of nutrition, extremely rich in minerals and vitamins. As a rich source of zinc (essential for testosterone production) and dopamine (a libido increasing hormone) oysters have also earned a deserved reputation as the fuel for romance and love.

As with all foods, there are no absolute rules to matching wine with oysters and their complex mineral, saline, creamy, textural and savoury flavours. However, finding flavours and textures that either complement or contrast is a good place to start.

The most famous match for freshly shucked oysters is champagne, the bright refreshing acidity complementing, and the effervescence of the wine contrasting, the oyster’s natural taste.

Likewise other bright, crisp, white wines like Chablis, and Sauvignon Blanc are considered classic complementary wines for oysters. The fine acidity, minerality, and fruitfulness of Matakana Rose, Pinot Gris, and Albarino fit this style perfectly.

Alternatively the dark bitterness of a stout beer like Guinness is a classic contrast to an oyster’s natural creaminess, creating a delicious match against expectations.

If you prefer to cook your oysters, then the resulting change to bolder, richer flavours broadens the possibilities further. The richness marries with the full-bodied flavours of wines like oaked Chardonnay, unctuous Viognier, even youthful bright and supple red wines like Pinot Noir and Tempranillo.

Once you start putting oysters into soups, pies, or stuffing them into steaks carpetbag style, then even full fruited, spicy, tannic red wines such as Syrah, Sangiovese, or Bordeaux blends they all can build on the complementary flavours working with the oysters to create successful matches.

The Matakana Wine and Oyster Festival is the perfect place to meet the Matakana Winegrowers, taste, sip, explore and come to your own conclusions. I look forward to seeing you there.