On occasion, the duties of my job include judging wine competitions. I like this task. Although I believe the enjoyment of wine should be a subjective experience, there are qualitative criteria by which wine can be judged and industry standards are created and maintained.

But sometimes, you just have to throw those criteria out the window and go with your gut and your preference. Last Tuesday was such an occasion. I was a judge of the Pacific Coast Oyster Wine Competition. It was my second time participating and it is most definitely my very favorite wine competition to judge.

The goal of the Pacific Coast Oyster Wine Competition is not to award the wine with textbook perfect attributes but the bottling you think makes the finest pairing with oysters. Adding to the competition’s interesting nature, there is no one winner but a list of 10 wines the judges deem most oyster friendly. I love that there are 10 winners, leaving room for that bit of personal preference to shine through while still allowing the best of the best to be celebrated.

Oh, and the other thing I love about this competition? Judging is an all-you-can-eat oyster kind of affair.

In order to properly judge each wine, you are to first smell, then eat an oyster. Only then are you to visit with the wine. And the primary criteria on which the wine is then to be judged is whether or not it makes you crave another oyster. If a wine is alluring, well-crafted and complex but detracts from the oysters or sours the palate in any way from enjoying the next bivalve, it is not a winner. In fact, during the competition I found that often it was the less complex, subtle-not showstopping wines that I put near the top of my scoreboard for their ability to meld and intermingle with the oyster’s delicate, sweet flavors. Very often, the winners were those kind of white wines I often refer to as possessing the same aromatics as a female pheromone, (subtle petrol or ripe brie-like aromas with faint, underlying minerality).

Yes, you knew I would have to get to the obvious reason for my love of these esteemed awards. The competition is possibly the greatest festival of aphrodisiacs I have ever experienced. And it is one I recommend every oyster lover recreate at home. Once the winners are announced, get yourself a dozen (or more) sweet, little Kumamotos-or your favorite oyster-and crack open a few of the winning bottles. Just one little warning, though: this experiment should not be undertaken solo!

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