Huîtrerie Régis: Four whites and oysters galore!
This week I’m eating at my favorite oyster eatery in Paris – Huîtrerie Régis. I love this place! They are closed half of the summer. Luckily I was able to eat here a few times before the dreaded July 14 closure. There’s a reason why this place closes for such a long time in the summer time – much longer than the typical August closure you’d come across in other Parisian restaurants. Oysters are best eaten in the cooler months (months that contain the letter “r”). The months that don’t contain that letter correspond to warm waters, when the oysters tend to be milky, fatty and softer in texture. The oysters don’t assume these characteristics because they are going bad due to the summer heat. Rather, this transformation takes place because they are getting ready to spawn.
Even if you do come across milky oysters, there’s no health risk associated with eating them – though they are not all that pleasant to eat.
Oysters harvested in the winter months (or the summer months if they are from cold enough waters), tend to be lighter and firmer, and also saltier and they need a lighter, crisp wine, like a Sancerre or a Muscadet. You want a wine made from grapes grown in colder climates. Cool climate grapes produce crisp and fresh wines, two characteristics that help to cut down on the salty and the briny flavors of the oysters and cleanse your palate in between bites. Both the Sancerre and the Muscadet come from the Loire Valley in France, which fits that profile. Champagne also fits the profile and it has the added benefit of effervescence, which can do wonders to refresh and cleanse the palate between each slurp 😉
Now, back to the oysters. Huîtrerie Régis has oysters only from Marennes Oleron in the Atlantic coast of France. My friend and I ordered a dozen of Les Fines de Claires No. 3 and a dozen of Les Spéciales de Claires No. 2.
I truly love oysters and I don’t get to eat them very often. They are just so overpriced in Abu Dhabi. So when I get to sit down to two-dozen oysters, I’m in my happy place.
Even though it’s already July, the oysters I had at Huîtrerie Régis are not milky – to be honest, no reputable restaurant should serve its customers milky oysters. To the contrary, these oysters are firm, lean, salty, and have that great ocean flavor. I will go with a Sancerre to pair with these beauties: a 2012 Daniel Crochet Cuvée Prestige.
This Sancerre is so light in color to be almost clear but there is body to this wine. It is very citrusy and has hints of green plants as well as a good level of minerality. The acidity is high but pleasant – exactly what you would want for oysters.
I am also curious about another wine that is on the menu – Pouilly Fumé, another sauvignon blanc from the Loire Valley. So I will order that as well to compare. This wine is called Les Charmes and it’s from Domaine Chatelain. The vintage is 2011.
The Pouilly Fumé has more body and flavor than the Sancerre. It is also darker in color – it’s a nice golden color. It is an aromatic wine with hints of toastiness.
Sancerre is definitely the winner between the two wines. I think the Pouilly Fumé slightly overpowers the delicate flavors of the oysters (I might prefer the pouilly fumé with some grilled fish instead of oysters). On the other hand, the Sancerre is definitely light enough in flavor to make the oysters shine. And it is crisp enough to balance their salty ocean flavors.
I also wanted to try a Muscadet, another traditional pairing with oysters. So a few days later, I ordered take-out from Huîtrerie Régis. I think I got a little carried away and ordered two-dozen Les Spéciales de Claires No. 2 for myself. Well, it is the last time I’m eating at Regis’s oysters before the restaurant closes. So, why not?
At the restaurant, they opened the oysters for me but kept the top shells on for easy transport. I jumped in a taxi to get home quickly and this is the amazingness that I sat down to.
Each oysters is wonderfully firm, lean and beautiful.
I will go ahead with Sancerre. But I also wanted to compare Muscadet to Sancerre to see which one works best with oysters. This time, I’m trying a different Sancerre. It is a really young Sancerre (2013 vintage) by François Crochet.
Typical of Sancerre, this is again bursting with acidity. Its aromas are super refreshing with citrus and apples. It has minerality, adding more freshness to the wine. It is again very pale yellow in color with green tinges. It is super acidic but nicely balanced. The flavor is a lot lighter is quite tart in comparison to the Muscadet.
The Muscadet belongs to the Muscadet Sèvre et Maine appelation. It’s called Granite de Clisson from the Loire valley. Granite de Clisson means the granite from Clisson because of the granitic fault on which the vines are planted. It is made by Domaine de la Pepière and it is from 2009.
The Clisson has heavier aromas than the Sancerre, like peaches and flowers. But the aroma I notice the most is minerals. It has much more pronounced than the Sancerre. It is also a bit darker in color and has a bit more body than the Sancerre.
So how did the wines do with the oysters? I think both the Sancerre and the Muscadet worked great. I tried the oysters with and without lemon and Sancerre did better with the lemon while the Muscadet was my choice for oysters without lemon.
The Sancerre is delightfully refreshing and does a wonderful job of cleansing my palate in between each oyster (otherwise, I don’t think I could’ve eaten all 24 oysters). The Sancerre actually tastes much tarter when I eat the oyster without the lemon and when I add the lemon it actually balances and tames the acidity in the wine. However, it’s important that the acidity of the lemon not overpower the acidity in the wine. If my food were more acidic than the wine, it would make the wine appear flatter, taking away from its wonderful crisp and fresh qualities.
The Clisson is also quite acidic, less than the Sancerre though. I don’t think it needs the lemon to balance out its acidity. In fact, the lemon makes the wine taste bitter. But without the lemon, I think this wine is a great pairing for oysters. It’s acidic enough to lighten up the flavors and cleanse the palate. And the marriage of salt and acidity is just perfect.
I like a little bit of lemon on my oysters to cut down on the saltiness and because of that the Sancerre is still my favorite wine for oysters.
Another classic pairing with oysters is Chablis – though it’s not my preferred pairing. I had a bottle of Chablis at home and I was just curious wanted to see how it would work with these oysters. It is called Bel-Air et Clardy and is made by Alice and Olivier de Moor (this is a fantastic Chablis by the way so if you come across this, this is a definitely must-buy). The vintage is 2011.
This Chablis, like the Clisson has very pronounced mineral aromas as well as some citrus and white fruit. Upon aeration, white flower elements also become noticeable. It is a fuller bodied wine that has some great smoothness, which nicely balances out the acidity. It almost feels like there’s honey in this wine based on how smooth it is (just based how the wine feels in your mouth, not sweetness – Chablis is not a sweet wine).
I think the Bel-Air et Clardy was okay but not outstanding with the oysters – a younger and lighter Chablis would work much better and this was just a tad too rich for the oysters (de Moor also makes lighter wines). This just goes to show that just because a wine is labeled a Chablis, it doesn’t automatically guarantee that it will pair well with oysters – the style of the particular wine and producer are just as important in determining the success of the pairing. I think the Sancerre and the Clisson were better pairings for the oysters and I would prefer to drink the Bel-Air et Clardy instead with richer seafood, like scallops, or if you happen to be served milky oysters.