Sunday, April 19, 2009

The wonderful world of the Degustation

degust - to taste or savour carefully or appreciatively.

The Degustation (aka dego); the most pure and beautiful way to eat and drink wonderful food and wine. I’ve said it all. There’s is no real point in writing any more in this blog really, but that would be remiss of me wouldn’t it now?
The true form of the ‘dego’ was introduced to me when I was a sommelier at ‘Vue du monde’ four years ago. Here I would contend with up to eight tables over a service and match wine with their minimum five course dego. Now one table or two sounds pretty easy but when you have seven or eight of the mongrels at the same time, it doesn’t seem so wonderful. But it’s not what I have to go through, it is what the diner, YOU, gets out of it.
As the definition says - to taste or savour - this is what it is all about. The whole idea about getting the right food and wine match is pure sensory bliss – fair dinkum it is!!
You see, degos are designed to take the worry out of deciding what to order. Let’s face it, how many times have you sat there pondering what to have, only to be half way through your meal and wishing you ordered the duck and not the lamb. Same goes for wine – some wine lists out there are like compendiums. My partner Erin used to be a ‘wine list widow’ when we would go out. These days it’s straight to the Burgundy or Barolo page, and if that’s too hard, it’s a bottle of Bindi.
So the plates come out one at a time and the appropriate wine served. Appropriate, you ask? Now food and wine matching for me is all about balance between the flavours on the plate and the glass – simple. But there is a lot more to it than that. A lot of diners expect to have lighter wines early then slowly ascending in body and texture, and obviously going from white to red. Au contraire I say to you!! As I stated before, it is all about balance.
One of the current dishes I am matching is a dish that has abalone and oyster with a duck consommé. This dish offers two real distinct flavour profiles and when you have flavours that are not true, as in predictable to one style of wine, the only option is to offer two styles of wine for the one dish; Champagne with the abalone and oyster and Madeira ‘Bual’ with the consommé. It works – simple. It works!!! The balance between these two flavour profiles on the plate and in the glass is stunning and succinct – they are wonderful I tell you.
The definition above states, ‘to taste or savour carefully or appreciatively.’ With this in mind, when you go for the dego option you must also go for the wine dego option. Now I know a lot of you love your Marlborough Savvy and Barossa Shitaz .... I mean Shiraz ... but these wines are not always the best partner for degos. Though I stated before that the dego does not have to start with the lighter style of wine, traditionally a dego does start with delicate, light flavours and slowly builds up to the final savoury course with rich, textured flavours. In most cases the same should go with the wine.
Now I am not saying that you have an entire glass of wine with each course, rather you should have just enough to complement the flavour on the plate. I also believe you should have no more than about 90mL of wine with each course – degos have been known to go up to 19 courses, so be careful.
If you do decide to go with the bottle option I would suggest choosing two – a white and a red. For a white perhaps a Chardonnay, new or old world, that has not got a lot of oak and not been through 100% MLF (malo-lactic fermentation – the secondary fermentation to dull some of the acid in wine) or a Pinot Gris, something with a bit of mouth feel and not too thin. For a red I would go for a Pinot Noir, once again new or old world, or a cool climate Shiraz, something from, say, Geelong, NZ or the Canberra district.
So next time you go out and there is a dego available, give it a go. Spend some quality time with your partner, rather than with the menu and wine list.


  1. ....okay, big Dego virgin here... I've always been intimidated by the Degustation thingy... either that or my purse wasn't brimming over on the occassion that a tempting one was presented to me.

    So I guess what I'm saying is that we're handing over the grand popping of the Dego cherry to yours truly... and whatever wine goes with it.

  2. Can't wait to savour one of your sculptured Dego's in the near future Tim....mmmmm I'm hungry (& thirsty) now.....