Best Wine With Duck

Duck is a popular choice of food around the world. Its strong flavor is closer to red meat than chicken and it tends to be much fattier.

This is why it’s not as popular as some other available meats. However, if duck is cooked in the right way, it has a delicious taste that is tender and moist. 

This ideal protein combination for meat lovers is a great choice when celebrating a special occasion or if you’re hosting occasional dinners with friends and family.

But we understand how difficult it can be to choose what to serve for a meal in the first place. If you do end up with duck, it’s a great choice! But then there is another question: what wine pairs well with this thicker and juicier meat?

To help you decide on which wine to serve with your entree, we have selected the best in this article. If you’re in a rush, there is one wine that is commonly recommended as a pairing for duck and this is Pinot Noir.

However, like any meat, duck can be cooked in different ways so different wines will complement its variations. 

Because duck is a fatty meat, it tends to require a wine with a certain sharpness and acidity. This is to cut through the distinct duck flavor. Add some ripe fruit into the mix and you get yourself a tasty contrast with the rich flesh of duck.

Here are our top suggestions for pairing wine with duck.

Pairing wine with duck

Delicate and tender. This is the best way to describe duck meat. Although red meat, duck is poultry. Therefore, there are some similarities with chicken. On occasions, the flavors resemble chicken but this can be determined by how it is cooked. 

As with chicken, most of the flavors in duck come from the cooking method. This is especially true when it is cooked on a hot surface and the skin or outer part of the meat has been caramelized. This process can see the exuberantly strong flavors of the meat become liberated.

Moreover, the sides and sauce can play a key role in the flavor profile of the duck too. Not only can it affect the taste but it can significantly impact your choice of wine.

There are some basic rules to keep in mind when combining wine with duck. They are as follows:

  • Slow-cooked duck – You should choose light red wines (Pinot Noir) or white wines (Pinot Grigio)  for slow-cooked duck. If the recipe doesn’t require any color caramelization to the meat, then these types of wines should be favored. The same goes for fruit-based and mildly-flavored cooking sauces. 
  • Roast duck, confit, barbecued duck – These cooking methods bring out the strong flavors of duck. Any method that reveals the tastes of nearly-burnt duck skin or meat should be paired with a more powerful and tannic red wine (Nebbiolo, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon). This will ensure the wine is not overpowered by the meat flavors.
  • Middle ground – If you’re a little unsure as to what to go for, Rose wines such as Balletto Vineyards Rose of Pinot Noir or Domaines Ott Château de Selle Côtes de Provence Coeur de Grain Rose can be a great middle-ground choice. Of course, this may mean you miss out on more intense flavors but Rose wine can be a reasonably good pairing. 

Let’s delve a little deeper and find out which wines go best with popular duck dishes.

Roast duck

Roasted duck brings out intense meaty flavors, especially with the caramelized fatty skin. This infuses all of its goodness into the duck meat. But the inside of the meat should be delicate and tender to taste. 

Unless you are serving your duck with a rich side dish or intense side sauce such as wine sauce, you should opt for a somewhat light wine.

Remember that duck is extremely fatty. Therefore, you should choose a red wine that has a solid acidity to cut through the meat’s intense richness.

Some excellent wine style choices that go well with roasted duck include:

  • Pinot Noir
  • Barbera
  • Gamay such as Beaujolais
  • Tempranillo such as a good Rioja wine
  • Cool-climate Cabernet Sauvignon such as Bordeaux
  • Sangiovese such as Chianti Classico

Any of these can complement the meaty flavors of roasted duck. Have a tasting night and see which one pleases your palate most. Any excuse!

Just avoid high-alcohol and powerful warm climate wines as these may be too big for your dish. Examples include Australian Shiraz, California Cabs and Merlots, and Argentina Malbecs. You do not want your wine to overpower the duck’s taste and vice versa.

Chinese roast duck

As with the Western-style roast duck, the Chinese roasted duck recipe releases powerful flavors from within the meat and its skin. You could say the flavors are even more intense due to the advent of garlic, ginger, onion, bean sauce, and maltose syrup seasoning.

However, Chinese roast duck is relatively sweeter in comparison to its Western counterpart. This means the sweetness of the dish doesn’t pair so well with rich red wines.

For a pleasing pairing, lighter acidic reds such as Beaujolais or Pinot Noir work very nicely with Chinese roast duck.

However, you can achieve a more exciting, surprising, and successful combination! For a concoction of flavors, you should try for a dry crisp, flavorsome white wine. Some examples are:

  • Chardonnay but this should preferably be un-oaked and produced in a cool climate
  • Riesling
  • Dry Italian white wines such as Soave, from the Garganega variety of grapes and Gavi from the Cortese grape
  • Pinot Gris, such as Alsace wine, or Pinot Grigio. This should be a relatively dry or slightly off-dry style. Otherwise, it could be too sweet and heavy when combined with the meat

Confit duck and stews

In the mood for a classic French dish? Duck confit would be an exceptional choice. Popular throughout France, duck confit may be most popular in the South West of the country where it has become a staple of traditional cuisine for many years. Along with Foie Gras (duck liver), which we will discuss further down, many French families enjoy a glass of wine, or two, with these delicious dishes.

Confit is prepared through a preservation process that has been around for centuries. Generations have used this method where the duck meat is cured in salt and then cooked for several hours in its own fat. This sterilizes the meat as well as tenders it. 

If you like a salty dish, you will love the elegant yet strong flavor of duck confit.

When it comes to painting wine with confit, we just have to see what the French people use. In South-Western France, they pair the meal with rich and heavily tannic red wines from their local region. 

Your red wine will need to have strong flavors. We mean they have to be strong enough to withstand the powerful taste and saltiness of confit. By using dense tannins, it helps add a savory element to the combination of wine and duck, cutting through the ever-present fat.

Many believe that the tannins, which are also antioxidants, help protect arteries from duck fat.

But, what about the perfect wine to pair with your duck confit? Here are our top picks:

  • Southern French tannic such as Tannat
  • FrenchMalbec such as Languedoc Malbec or Cahors
  • Merlot or red blends
  • South African Pinotage
  • A dense California Cabernet
  • An Aussie Shiraz
  • An Argentinian version of Malbec
  • The Uruguayan version of Tannat

The Argentine version of a Malbec and the Uruguayan version of a Tannat both work well but maybe a little too heavy for some taste buds. 

Foie Gras 

Here, we have a dish that includes the liver of a duck that has been specially fattened. The liver is salted, seasoned, and slow-cooked resulting in a creamy, delicate buttery, divine taste. Just serve in slices with crunch toasted bread and your taste buds will be going off like fireworks.

Foie Gras is probably one of the easiest duck dishes to pair with wine but, as with most pairings, it comes down to your personal taste.

In France, they favor the traditional way of using sweet late-harvest or Botrytis wines. Some examples are:

  • Jurancon
  • Sauternes, Cadillac, or Barsac liqueur wines
  • Alsace Vendanges Tardives such as Riesling, Gewurztraminer, or Pinot Gris

These wines add a richer element to the flavors. Citrus and tropical fruit are brought together to create a distinct, pleasing taste. As with orange sauce that works wonderfully with duck, the fruit that drives these wine profiles give the dish a supremely satisfying feel.

Other alternatives that are just as good include:

  • Late harvest wines from all over the world
  • Fortified Muscats
  • Italian Passito
  • A sweet Spanish Sherry such as Pedro Jimenes or Palo Cortado

You can also try some dry white wines, especially ones with a strong herbal flavor profile. These include:

  • Viognier
  • California, Australia, or French Chardonnay
  • New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc
  • Austrian Gruner Veltliner
  • Rhone white blends such as Roussanne Marsanne

The best way to find the best wine is to try different types with varying duck dishes. Enjoy!

Christina Day
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