There’s one wine that’s invariably recommended as a pairing for duck and that is Pinot Noir but of course duck, like any other meat, can be cooked in different ways. How does that affect the match?
The common factor is that duck is a fatty meat that tends to need a wine with some sharpness and acidity to cut through and some ripe fruit to contrast with the rich flesh (duck is often cooked with fruit). Here are some suggestions:
Whether it’s a fine old burgundy or an exuberant full-bodied pinot from California, Chile, Oregon or the Central Otago region of New Zealand pinot is almost always going to make people happy. (See this pairing for example.) If you’re roasting a wild duck or serving it plainly cooked you might want to go for a more delicate red burgundy*, if you’re serving super-rare duck breasts or duck that has some kind of Asian spicing a sweeter, riper style might work better. Whatever. Think Pinot.
Having made the point about acidity, I have to admit that Merlot, which often lacks it, goes rather well with duck, especially in Chinese-style pancakes with hoisin sauce. A Pomerol would be heaven.
Works the same way as Pinot. Good for more classic roasts
Tuscan reds e.g. Chianti
The Italians tend to cook their duck longer - often braising rather than roasting it. Chianti matches particularly well, especially if the sauce contains tomato and olives.
Bandol and other Mourvèdre
The dark, intense smokey notes of Mourvèdre are fabulous with duck, especially cooked with a red wine sauce. Or smoked as in this highly successful pairing
Madiran and Marcillac
Tannic Madiran comes from the same area of the south-west France that produces foie gras - and therefore shedloads of confit duck. It’s delicious as you can see from this pairing but I’m not sure I don’t prefer the lighter, more rustic Marcillac. Or a Cahors.
Serious ‘cru’ Beaujolais like Morgon can be delicious with duck if you’re looking for a fruity, cherry-flavoured contrast (though its fruit may be wiped out by a cherry sauce). Particularly good with cold duck or duck rillettes, paté or terrines.
Late harvest riesling
If you’d rather serve a white with duck, an off-dry German spätlese or other late harvest riesling can be a delicious pairing. Especially if the duck is cooked with apples.
Brilliant with duck curries, especially Thai red curry. Also good if duck is served with fruit such as quince or oranges as in this smoked duck salad or duck à l’orange.
* note that serving peas with roast duck increases its affinity with pinot as you can see here
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