The bivalves’ merroir — yes, merroir — is much like grapes’ terroir, telling a much deeper story about the place they were grown, Melissa Clark writes.
On a recent early evening at Maison Premiere, an oyster bar in Brooklyn, I sampled five types of East Coast oysters, perched on a platter of crushed ice like briny gems.
As I slurped each one, I noticed their individual charms: the minerality of the Moonstone, the fresh softness of the Onset, Colville Bay’s deep umami sweetness, the briny notes of the Malpeque, Violet Cove’s hit of seaweed and salt.
Although these bivalves were all the exact same species — Crassostrea virginicas, also called the Eastern or Atlantic oyster — they were as distinct from one another as a buttery Napa chardonnay is from a crisp Burgundy Chablis.
In sommelier-speak, the expression of these differences is called terroir and reflects how factors like the environment, climate, geology, soil health, viticulture and weather affect the flavor and feel of a finished wine. For oysters and some other bivalves, including scallops, the term of art is merroir, a play on “terroir” that replaces the French for “terre” (land) with “mer” (sea).