Published on November 13th, 2019 | by Ruben0
Tio Pepe with En Rama oysters
Fino sherry and raw oysters are a match made in heaven. If you didn’t know that already, make sure you have it on your list for the upcoming holiday season. The dry, saline nature and iodine notes in a Fino or Manzanilla match all kinds of seafood naturally, but oysters in particular.
Earlier this week I had a chance to experience this particular pairing in a very special way, by taking a boat from Yerseke in The Netherlands to an oyster field in the Eastern Scheldt. In this specific location Zeeland’s Roem (part of Europe’s largest seafood processor and experts in mussels, oysters and shrimps) developed a new type of oyster which they named the en rama oyster. They are Japanese oysters (Crassostrea gigas which we call creuses), cultivated in hanging baskets rather than on tables or on the sea bottom. The motion of the waves and the fact that they regularly appear above water level with the tide makes the oysters work harder and become tougher. They have a harder, deeper shell (interesting for gastronomic use) and firm, delicious flesh.
The name en rama oyster was chosen as part of a campaign which links the oyster to a special release of Tio Pepe En Rama, a limited saca was made at the end of October (so not the traditional April moment) from a selection of 6 barrels in the Tio Pepe solera. It was presented by assistant winemaker Sylvia Flores and I had the impression it was far less citric than the common Tio Pepe En Rama 2019, with slightly more herbal touches and nutty notes. Seasonal differences are sometimes very large in wines that age under flor: Autumn releases have been ‘sweating’ during summer and have a less vigorous yeast cap than the ones bottled in Spring.
To mark this occasion some bottles of the springtime release were placed in underwater baskets for four months. We opened them on the boat, they were delicious and rather turbid (due to the movement of the bottle in the water and perhaps the temperature). While this underwater version was really different from the new ‘oyster’ release, I’m not convinced the underwater ageing was responsible for the differences. Anyone who has tried seasonal batches of Fino knows you get very distinctive wines throughout the year, so it’s hard to evaluate other influences.
Trying oysters on the boat while they are being harvested from their baskets and paired to a fresh Tio Pepe is a priceless experience, and if you’re in Belgium you will be able to experience this pairing yourself in a restaurant nearby.
The combination of the oysters and the sherry will only be available in select restaurants through Cinoco and Metro. The list includes Bizie Lizie, The Jane ** and Silo’s among others. Only around 1400 bottles of this limited edition are available.