An Oyster Farmer’s Guide to Shucking & Sparkling: Giles Fisher on Tasmania’s land of plenty
Thu 11 Jan 2024
Oysters have become all too synonymous with hot Aussie summers and lavish feasts. But beyond the festive season these ocean molluscs maintain their allure year-round, captivating palates with a delicate dance of flavours that echo the pristine waters they hail from.
Hailing from a long line of oyster farmers, Giles Fisher is no stranger to Tasmania’s land of plenty. With pristine beaches and the cleanest air in the world, the 7th generation Tasmanian and aptly named owner of Freycinet Marine Farm sheds light on what sets Tasmanian oysters apart (and what he looks for when choosing a wine to match) and how the beauty of such bounty permeates the region.
"It's the unique combination of our pristine waters, optimal growing conditions, and the meticulous farming practices we adhere to," Fisher explains.
"Oyster farming is a wonderfully green industry – slow-grown, rich and regenerative – one of the only industries that rewards the land as much as it does the consumer.”
This makes sense, as anyone who’s indulged in a lazy dozen knows that when you taste a Tassie oyster, you're tasting the sea itself.
“Tasmanian oysters are a different flavour,” Fisher continues. “Oysters grown in colder climates are richer and more flavoursome... less metallic. Plumper, sweeter, more luscious. A real marine-oir.”
Freshness is non-negotiable in these parts, and it’s the bone-cold waters of the Southern Ocean that allow them to develop a crisp, briny flavour profile that truly reflects the essence of Tasmania’s untouched marine environment.
So, what makes an oyster fancier than fish & chips on the beach?
"Romance is undeniable”, muses the oyster farmer. “Love from the ocean. You can't get from deep-fried fish. Jewels from the sea. Sexy flavours. From shell to back palate, oysters demand patience, tenderness and respect.”
Yet they're not just reserved for special occasions. Oysters have this incredible ability to elevate everyday moments with little to no fuss required.
"The natural flavours of an oyster should always be enhanced. Eat oysters fresh with a dash of lemon and cracked pepper. Nothing more, nothing less. The acidity of the lemon brings out the umami flavours of an oyster without diluting its raw beauty.”
“When you’re finished,” he instructs, “pour a dash of sparkling in the shell, tip your head back and down the hatch she goes."
Giles shares his expertise on what to look for when choosing the perfect bubbly companion. "When it comes to sparkling wine, I seek a balance between crisp acidity and subtle effervescence. A well-chosen sparkling enhances the entire tasting experience; it should complement the briny notes of the oyster without overpowering its delicate flavours."
Though when pressed for his preference, bubbles aren’t always best.
“For me, it’s Tassie Riesling,” Fisher says with absolute clarity. “Crispy, tangy Rieslings from the East Coast. Acid cuts through the briny flavours in such a distinct way, you really can’t beat it."
A classic combination that never fails to impress, both Tasmanian oysters and Riesling grapes thrive in the cool climate and pristine waters of Tasmania. They also basically share a bed; the shared terroir between oyster beds and Riesling vineyards impart local flavours and unique characteristics. Oysters, being a source of umami, find a friend in the umami-enhancing qualities of Tasmanian Riesling, its citrus undertones balancing the creamy, sweetness of these ocean gems.
But what is it about wines from Tasmania that he thinks is so special? Fisher demystifies the magic behind Tasmania's sparkling wines, attributing their excellence to the determination of Pinot Noir growers.
"Pinot guys put themselves through pain, safe in the knowledge that what they’ll produce is something truly spectacular, and unlike anything else in the world. The appreciation for our land breeds this kind of resilience and true grit that’s unparalleled."
"The juice is worth the squeeze, so to speak."
"There’s acceptance and there’s patience. Pinot Noir, in particular, is a finicky grape to grow, and so much of Tasmania’s wine industry relies on top-quality grapes for Sparkling production. Tasmania’s winemakers are tasked with harnessing this wild and often unforgiving landscape to make wines of this calibre."
Whether you're partial to these oceanic treasures or not, oysters are more than just a seasonal indulgence: they're an invitation to savour the purity of Tasmania's coastal bounty. From the richness of slow-grown oysters to the resilience of our region's winemakers, the east coast of Tasmania emerges as a haven for those who appreciate the finer things in life – a symphony of flavours, the embrace of nature, and a legacy of craftsmanship passed down through generations.
"Tasmania truly is a land of plenty," urges Fisher. "A paradise found with pristine beaches and the cleanest air in the world. You can’t help but feel at home sitting in nature with all this bounty at your fingertips – rock lobster, beautifully dense national parks . Even the untamed Midlands are beautiful, despite it being cold enough to make an Eskimo shudder!"
Freycinet Marine Farm is located in Coles Bay, TAS, and open daily from 9am - 5pm.
Devil's Corner Cellar Door is located along the Great Eastern Drive, in one of the wildest yet rewarding places on earth. Our Cellar Door is open daily from 10am - 5pm, where you can both taste the oysters and drink the wine.