Pairing Wine With Duck

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While many of our pairing articles are straightforward, this one will be a bit more complex. Duck may be prepared in a myriad of ways. From Asian-inspired dishes to the rich and fatty Foie Gras, smoked, roasted, a l’Orange… you get the picture. Duck is a diverse protein with countless recipes available. That complexity is increased as duck, while technically considered poultry, in practicality, seems to straddle the line between poultry and meat. Predominantly dark meat, but heavier than chicken and less substantial than red meat. With all that being said, let’s get quackin’.

Wine Characteristics To Pair With Duck

CharacteristicDetail
SweetnessDry to Off-Dry
AcidityMedium + to High
TanninsMedium – to Medium
BodyRed – Lighter \ White – Bolder
NotesFruity \ Rich

Being in the protein no-man’s-land between poultry and beef, it would be wise to play in the middle of the field when selecting a wine to elevate your dining experience. Therefore, we turn to a lighter red or a bolder white. 

The preparation of the dish will play a significant role in choosing the best pairing. But there are still some basic guidelines we can follow.

Duck is naturally a rich and fatty dish, so we want a wine that is higher on the acid scale to cut through that fat. In wine, acid and sugar have an inverse relationship. The higher the acid, the lower the sugar, and vice-versa. Thus, a higher acid wine will be dry to off-dry.

As duck is more delicate than red meat, we want to avoid overpowering the dish with tannin powerhouses and the accompaniments will often favor fruitier, richer noted selections.

Best Red Wine To Pair With Duck

If your meal is roasted, smoked, seared, or prepared with a red fruit sauce\glaze, the nod would have to go to a red wine selection.

Pinot Noir. With low tannins, low sugar, and higher acid, Pinot Noir is the go-to safe bet for almost any duck dish. This selection will complement the flavors of the meal and has the acid to handle the fat in the meat. As you’ll see below, there may be other selections that pair better with specific preparations, but Pinot Noir will always be a safe bet with duck.  

Gamay. This varietal from the Southern Burgundy region of Beaujolais is known for its fruit forwardness on the palate. Specifically, plum, cherry, raspberry, and pomegranate. The light body, low tannins, and medium + acidity marry well if your meal has a red fruit sauce or glaze. Beaujolais would also be a splendid match for Duck a l’Orange.  

Barolo. If you are enjoying a roasted duck, Barolo is your friend here. Although a bit higher on the tannin scale than our other selections, the stronger flavor that is developed during the roasting can balance the higher tannins. The herbal notes of Barolo pair very well if the roast contains mushrooms and root vegetables. With an acidity level that matches the fattiness of the dish, Barolo and roasted duck are a sublime match.

Malbec. For grilled duck, or a duck confit (salt brined and slow cooked in duck fat), Malbec would be our selection of choice. Malbec can add a smoky note that works well with the above preparations. The fuller body and medium + tannins of this wine can stand up to the robust flavors imparted during these cooking processes.

Best White Wine To Pair With Duck

For preparations featuring fruit components, such as a sauce or glaze, or Asian-inspired meals, we would be inclined towards a white wine offering.

Sauternes. Sauternes is a sub-region of Bordeaux known for its sweet, almost dessert-style wines. The blend of Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc boasts flavors of stone fruit, butterscotch, and caramel while offering a full-bodied, acidic experience. There is no more classic pairing than Sauternes and Foie Gras – both are decadent and the savory richness of the foie gras with the rich sweetness of the Sauternes balance each other to perfection.  

Riesling. Featuring high acidity, off-dry sweetness, and citrus flavors, Riesling is the white wine counterpart to the Pinot Noir above. There are more specific and complementary pairings mentioned here, but Riesling would be a safe all-around white option for almost any duck preparations.

Chenin Blanc. The off-dry offerings of Chenin Blanc feature a flavor profile of ripe pear and ginger and have medium + acidity. This wine is a popular pairing for Asian-inspired dishes. As such it would marry well with any of the Asian duck variations. A dry, oaked Chenin Blanc with its buttery flavors would also be a good match for a roasted duck dish.

Grüner Veltliner. Beginning with bright citrus flavors, moving through a core of minerality with subtle herbal presence and finishing with notes of spicy peppercorns, this varietal pairs well with the deep flavor profile of many duck dishes. The high acidity in this offering does its job in cutting through the fattiness often found in duck preparations.

Best Wines To Pair With Duck

As discussed above, pairing wine with duck is varied and heavily dependent on the preparation of the meal. But overall, there are a few offerings we recommend that would provide an enjoyable dining experience across a broad range of variations.

  • Pinot Noir
  • Riesling
  • Grüner Veltliner
  • Gamay (Beaujolais)
  • Chenin Blanc

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