Discover Coastal Alabama Winter/Spring 2019 - Page 11

cracking open a sack full of oysters, but I also really appreciate the opportunity to taste and compare the full variety and nuances of flavor found in all of our different oysters.” In the wine industry, the word “terrior” – of the soil – is used to describe the effect of geog- raphy on how a particular wine will taste. Walton coined the word “merrior” – of the sea – to explain that the same characteristics apply to farmed oysters. How the oysters are handled, the salini- ty or brackishness of the water, the tides and weather all combine to create specific qualities unique to each farm. The Zirlott’s talk about the hint of butter (think Paula Deen) in their Murder Points, while Mobile Oyster Company’s Isle Dauphine Oysters are salty and rich. The unique character of each oyster allows the farmers to develop and tell their own individual story as they build their brands. Consequently, our Coastal Alabama farmers have begun to establish themselves in the “boutique” oyster niche in the high-end restaurant market. Early adopters like chefs Bill Briand of Fisher’s in Orange Beach and Chris Rainosek from Nobile South in Mobile have been critical to the industry growth. They celebrate the prod- uct and the pride of the farmers who deliver it and help educate the palates of their guests. Ideally this leads to ever increasing demand and helps this nascent industry stay on firm ground… even if they’re floating just above the bottom. AU Shellfish Lab’s Caitlin Robitaille and Glen Chaplin head out to the AU research farm to tend oyster broodstock. Photos by Fernando DeCillis and provided by Alabama Cooperative Extension System. DISCOVER COASTAL ALABAMA - WINTER/SPRING 2019 11