Top pairings | 9 great wine pairings for duck

Top pairings

9 great wine pairings for duck

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 wine 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 the types of wine I think go with duck best.

Pinot Noir

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 Noir 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 (e.g. Peking duck), a sweeter, riper style might work better. Whatever. Think Pinot.

Merlot

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.

Barolo

Barolo works the same way as Pinot and is a good wine match for more classic roast duck.

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 duck as in this highly successful pairing of tea-smoked duck with Bandol.

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

Duck confit

Beaujolais

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.

Gewürztraminer

Brilliant with duck curries, especially Thai red curry or a Thai-spiced salad like this Thai roast duck and watermelon salad. Also good if duck is served with fruit such as quince or oranges as in this smoked duck salad or duck à l’orange.

Wine pairings for 10 popular duck dishes

Peking Duck - A classic Chinese dish featuring crispy skin and tender meat. Pair with: Pinot Noir, for its fruity notes which compliments the dish.

Duck à l'Orange - A French favorite combining duck with a citrusy sauce. Pair with: Riesling, offering a balance with its sweetness and acidity.

Confit de Canard - Another French classic of slow-cooked duck legs. Pair with: Merlot

Thai Red Duck Curry - Spicy and coconut-rich. Pair with: Gewürztraminer, for its sweetness which matches the dishes spice. 

Tea-Smoked Duck - A Chinese delicacy where duck is marinated, smoked over tea leaves and twigs, then roasted to achieve a distinctive flavour. Pair with: Pinot Noir, whose medium body, subtle earthiness, and hints of fruit complement the smokiness and rich flavor of the duck.

Duck Cassoulet - A hearty French stew. Pair with: A robust Syrah

Roast Duck with Plum Sauce - A popular dish combining roasted duck with sweet plum sauce. Pair with: Zinfandel whose bold notes complements the sweet and savoury sauce.

Duck Bao Buns - Soft buns filled with tender duck, a fusion of Asian flavors. Pair with: Champagne or sparkling wine, adding a refreshing contrast.

Magret de Canard - A French dish featuring seared duck breast. Pair with: Cabernet Sauvignon, offering a rich texture and tannins.

Duck Pancakes - Chinese-style pancakes served with duck and hoisin sauce. Pair with: A light Sauvignon Blanc, cutting through the richness and pairing with the hoisin sauce.

Photo of roast duck by hlphoto and duck confit by nelea33. Both at shutterstock.com

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Comments: 9 (Add)

Larry Burr on January 28 2021 at 19:20

Good matches! Merlot from British Columbia or Washington State has the acidity to brighten the wine, and match it well with the duck

Tim Haslam on September 20 2020 at 15:05

One of my greatest food & wine matches was pan-fried duck breast in raspberry sauce with Feudi Di San Gregorio's Taurasi. Sublime.

Martyn Cornell on April 29 2019 at 13:00

Best drinks to go with duck: Imperial stout; kriek lambic; Rauchbier; strong dark barley wine; Alaskan smoked porter; hefeweize. Wine? Fuggedaboutit.

Jack Simmonds on April 27 2019 at 07:24

For heaven sake ! You didn't mention Gruner Veltliner? Where have you been?

Fiona Beckett on March 19 2017 at 21:11

That would work too, John especially with duck confit.

John on March 19 2017 at 16:51

What about a malbec? Cahors would be best but other malbecs are worth a try

Fiona Beckett on April 19 2015 at 09:15

Interesting suggestion. Will have to try though I don't make duck à l'orange that often TBH

Jim C. on April 19 2015 at 03:47

I'd second the Barolo or Barbaresco recommendation with most duck dishes; nothing works better than nebbiolo. But for Peking duck or duck a l'orange, I look for touriga nacional or blends from Douro or Dao.

Tim Steele on September 27 2014 at 23:11

I'd add a Corbiere or Minervois to that list. Those bitter tannins paired with the massive Syrah ripe red fruits match the heavy fats of a confit beautifully.

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