Texas Oysters and Texas Wine: A Marriage Made on the Gulf Coast to the Hill Country and the High Plains
As you may have read in the Houston Chronicle or seen on Channel 2 news recently, the Texas oyster industry is still recovering from the devastation from 2008 from Hurricane Ike. Ike wiped out 50 percent of Galveston Bay’s oyster reef which is about 8,000 acres. Then, it was dealt a PR blow after the BP disaster and oil spill (none of which made it to our Texas shores) that left an “imaginary taste” in the “virtual mouth” of many consumers. Sales declined, but the facts showed that Galveston Bay oysters weren’t sullied. Then, in 2011 came the heat and drought and the bloom of red tide. It’s all been a rough go for our beloved yet beleaguered local bivalves.
Well, the recent cold weather and rains have refreshed Galveston Bay and, in turn, its oysters have just started to show up again on restaurant menus and in local markets. It’s high time to eat Texas oysters.
However, on the other side of the table, I’ll ask a few questions:
First, what should I be drinking with my plate full of of Texas Gulf Coast oysters on the half shell, roasted or deep fried? I short order I think…What is a natural and capable liquid accompaniment, especially if I what to match my locavore-ish oyster habit with a bit of a locapour-ed refreshment?”
While many Texans have traditionally reached for a cold bottle of beer, an increasing number of oyster aficionados of our lone star locale are starting to follow the rise of the Texas wine industry. Now, my third question …What does the Texas wine industry offer in terms of seafood compatibility? When it comes to oyster-friendly wines, the white, dry wines of Texas are literally upon you.
Let’s start with our Gulf Coast’s own grape variety, Blanc Du Bois. It’s a special hybrid grape that was developed for warm and humid regions like the Texas Gulf Coast. We have over 200 acres under vine (with projections of 300 acres soon to be) from Galveston to Austin to Brazos Countries. This is more Blanc Du Bois than grown anywhere else in the whole dang wine world. It’s our own Texas grape!
While the versatility of Blanc Du Bois allows it to be made in a whole host of wine styles including dry, semi-sweet and dessert, it is the dry versions that pairs best with oysters and Gulf Coast seafood. The most plentiful examples in the marketplace are from Galveston County’s own Haak Vineyard and Winery in Santa Fe, Texas. They make an unoaked version of Dry Blanc Du Bois that offers a Sauvignon Blanc-ish citrus/pear experience. Haak Vineyards also make a version with a hint of oak aging (Reserve Blanc Du Bois) that takes on a toasty/apple/citrus Fume Blanc character.
Texas is also creating waves of excitement with a new grape variety (at least new for the United States). This enthusiasm is for the refreshing lemony qualities of the Vermentino grape that derives originally from Sardinia (the Mediterranean island to the east of Italy). Duchman Family Winery Vermentino made a splash on the local wine scene with its 2009 vintage Vermentino. Recently, I tasted their 2010 and it was even more flavorful yet light and bright enough to make a wonderful accompaniment to oysters on the half shell or fire roasted in the shell.
Another new grape to Texas to look to for Texas oysters is Albarino, the grape of “Green Spain” of that country’s northern Atlantic coastal region of Riax Baxias. This is considered by many wine experts to be perhaps the quintessential seafood wine pairing. I’ve had dinner on the marina in Barcelona and enjoyed this wine with steamed Mediterranean razor clams. Two Texas Albarinos that I recommend are from Becker Vineyards and McPherson Cellars. They may be still hard-to-impossible to find in local stores, but try getting from their tasting rooms or have them ship you a few bottles to your doorstep (which they now can legally). Albarino is light, bright and crisp, almost like putting a squeeze of lemon on your seafood of choice.
I bet about now that you’re saying….But, what Texas wine to drink with deep fried oysters or with my oyster gumbo? Here, we need something that’s just a bit more substantial. You know, kick it up a notch! Don’t worry, I won’t leave the land of deep-fried everything without giving you my favorite wine pairing there, too.
My recommendation is to go with either Viognier or Roussanne. These are two grapes that originate from the Rhone Valley in southern France, but are now finding a happy new home in the Texas Hill Country and on the Texas High Plains regions. Becker Vineyards was one of the first Texas wineries to give this grape a try, but now we have it showing up from many wineries around the state. My favorites are from Duchman Family Winery, McPherson Cellars, Perissos Vineyards and Becker Vineyards. These wines have an interesting combination of citrus and stone fruits like peaches and apricots which can be orchestrated from subtle, to restrained to big and bodacious. The order of presentation above is precisely in that order of power. Viogner is generally more fruity, tropical and powerful and Roussanne is more restrained, minerally and floral.
Well, it’s time to GO TEXAN! It’s all up to you to make locavore meet up with locapour. So, try some Texas wine with your Texas Gulf Coast Oysters today. Ya’hear!