Back to FISH Vol 23 3
PUBLISHED 1 Sep 2015

Aussie Wine Month provided the opportunity for a range of local oysters to shine, showcasing distinct regional flavours

Customers enjoying freshly shucked, unrinsed oysters.
Photos: Wine Australia

It is the first week of May and Australia Square in Sydney’s CBD is bustling with activity; glasses clinking as they are unpacked, wines are unboxed and hessian bags brimming with fresh oysters hauled in, ready for the two-day launch of Aussie Wine Month on 6 and 7 May.

The oysters are a mixture of Native Oysters, Sydney Rock Oysters and Pacific Oysters, from a select number of growers on the New South Wales coast. Severe storms and flooding in the lead-up to the event reduced the number of growers represented at the event, but more than 280 dozen oysters were still sourced to showcase a variety of species and regional variations.

The FRDC’s manager of communications, trade and marketing, Peter Horvat, says the pop-up cellar door event run by Wine Australia was a great opportunity for the seafood industry to benefit from the media attention and awareness generated by Wine Australia’s Aussie Wine Month.

In the same way that winemakers were able to explain the regional and varietal differences of their offerings directly to customers, the oyster bar was able to tell the story of the regional and species differences of its oysters.

The 2015 event was the second time the FRDC has coordinated the promotion of seafood at the Sydney launch of Aussie Wine Month. In 2014 prawns and Atlantic Salmon were the feature seafoods.

Photo of oysters for sale

Last year a dozen TAFE students spent many hours peeling the 100 kilograms of prawns provided in preparation for the event. This year Joe Zappia and Les Maisi from Sydney City Oysters were on hand to help coordinate the delivery of live oysters direct from the growers and to shuck them on the spot – more than 3300 in all – for customers.

Botany Bay oyster producer and processor Dave Barker also attended to help tell the story of oyster growing.

Joe Zappia says shucking the oysters fresh and serving them unrinsed, with the full flavour of the oyster’s juices, was a point of difference for consumers, many of whom had only experienced oysters pre-opened and rinsed.

They were also able to compare the different regional and species flavours, from the creamy Merimbula Sydney Rock Oysters, to the full-flavoured native flat oysters from the Clyde River (which were only opened for serious oyster lovers).

At the same time, customers were asked questions about their interest in opening their own oysters so that they could experience ultimate oyster tasting for themselves – freshly shucked and unrinsed in the shell.

About 1500 people attended the two-day Aussie Wine Month launch, most of whom were aged 25 to 45 years and who worked in and around Australia Square.

Peter Horvat says the significant media coverage of the event was a positive outcome, reaching more than four million readers through print media and another 140,000 people via Facebook and Twitter.

Oysters Australia used the event to add to its consumer research in the 25 to 45-year-old city worker demographic. Oysters Australia executive officer Rachel King says the industry wants to increase the number of people who can open their own oysters to enjoy a premium eating experience.

Customers eating oysters surveyed at the Wine Month launch were asked if they ate oysters at home and if they could open the oysters themselves.

The survey found that:

  • five out of 10 were ‘no hassles please’ eaters, who did not want to know how to open an oyster – they went to trusted sources, such as restaurants and Sydney Fish Market for their oysters;
  • three out of 10 were open to learning how to open an oyster – most already ate oysters at home and would buy more if they could buy them closer to the source; and
  • two out of 10 were already oyster ‘gurus’ – they would buy more oysters to open themselves, if they could get them direct from the farm. 

The winemakers

Carlo Pizzini – Pizzini Wines (Victoria)
Corrina Wright – Yarnbomb and Oliver’s Taranga (SA)
Jeremy Dineen – Josef Chromy Wines (Tasmania)
Jim Chatto – McWilliam’s Wines (NSW)
Keith Hentschke – Hentley Farm Wines (SA)
Luke Skeer – Wynns Coonawarra Estate (SA)
Neil Larson – Tahbilk Winery (Victoria)
Richard Burch – Howard Park Wines (WA)

The oyster producers

Dominic Boyton – Merimbula Gourmet Oysters, Merimbula (Sydney Rock Oysters)
Tony Troup – Camden Haven Oyster Supply, Camden Haven River (Sydney Rock Oysters)
Paul Wilson – Port Oyster Co, Hastings River (Sydney Rock Oysters)
Ewan McAsh – McAsh Oysters, Clyde River (Sydney Rock Oysters and Native Oysters)
Ben Ralston – Ralston Bros Oysters, Clyde River (Pacific Oysters)
Brandon and Jason Armstrong – Armstrong Oysters, Camden Haven River
(Sydney Rock Oysters)

More information

Rachel King, 0425 237 566

Oysters Australia