Taste: Spirits: O, Oysters

Wash down raw-bar favorites with everything from stout to champagne

Shellfish are delicacies in every sense of the word: fragile, refined and delicious. But beware — the subtle flavor of raw oysters and clams can be overwhelmed by too strong a drink.

Wine is a natural partner for raw shellfish, especially whites and sparkling wines. Tender mollusks need wines that taste as clean as a whistle. Unoaked styles, like Italian pinot grigio, French chablis and dry Australian riesling, are terrific raw-bar partners. But French champagne is the ultimate oyster wine. Simultaneously rich and austere, champagne mirrors the captivating duality of premium oysters. For a white-wine pairing primer, sample the “Oyster Flight” at Harry’s Seafood Grill in Wilmington.

Chilled white spirits are also an ideal pairing, highlighting oysters’ salty tang. Chilled shots of premium vodka are refreshing chasers for glistening bivalves at McCormick & Schmick’s on Broad Street.

Raw oysters have solid blue-collar credentials, too. Light-bodied black beers, such as porters and dry stouts, are classic shellfish partners. But crisp pale lagers and pilsners are now the beers most frequently served with oysters and clams. Visit the new Anastasi Café, where a longtime Italian Market seafood family slings pitchers of light beer with impeccable raw shellfish. Or step into the past for a black-and-tan with the “Clammy Hour” raw-bar specials at historic Snockey’s on South 2nd Street.


PLCB Pick of the Month
Rioja Reserva Campillo 1996; Spain; $14.99

Summer cuisine is ideal for exploring Spanish reds from the Rioja region. These seductive wines are based on tempranillo, and hold appeal for fans of both pinot noir and cabernet, Old World and New World alike. This lip-smacking wine is a steal at 50 percent off the regular retail. Try it with smoked meats, grilled fish, or just a bowl of olives.