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
TanninsLow to Medium
BodyLight Red Wines – Bold White Wines
NotesWhite Wine Notes – Citrus, stone fruit, smoke
Red Wine Notes – Red fruit, black fruit, clove, smoke

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. 

Sweetness – Most of the time dry wines will work perfectly with duck dishes, however in some instances off-dry and medium sweet wines will work well too.

Acidity – Medium to high acidity is necessary to cut through the fat of the meat.

Tannins – Low to medium tannins are generally better for duck meat, however sometimes even higher tannin levels will work.

Body – Medium bodied white wines and light to medium bodied reds should be your area of focus.

Tasting Notes – White wines should be focused on citrus, stone fruit, smoke and butter aromas. Red wines should have a core of red fruit, black fruit, cloves and smoke from oak aging. 

Pairing Wine With Duck Prepared Different Ways

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.

Wine With Asian Style Duck

Duck meat cooked in an Asian style usually has a bit of a kick. Typically made with five spice it needs a white wine with a bit of sweetness to balance it out. That’s why we would recommend having an off-dry Pinot Gris.

Wine With Honey & Orange Glazed Duck

Having a honey and orange glazed duck gives a lot of sweetness to the dish, accompanied with honey and orange aromas. For this dish, try the late harvested Sauvignon Blanc. 

Wine With Pan Seared Duck Breast

Having a seared duck breast with a blackberry sauce just screams for a red wine. If the duck is a bit on the rare side try going for a red wine with a bit more tannins and body. A Syrah or Mourvedre will work well. 

Wine With Peking Duck

This complex dish is sweet, salty and even sour, so choosing a wine to drink with Peking Duck can be quite overwhelming sometimes. The dish has thin but crispy skin that has just a little bit of meat attached to it. So something with this much fat content will need a wine that is bold but balanced. An off-dry riesling would be an excellent choice, and is probably something that would pair well with the rest of your meal too. If you are looking to drink a red wine with this dish, then a pinot noir is a fantastic choice that is delicate but won’t be overpowered by the strong flavors in the dish. Other great options are an Australian Shiraz, Zinfandel and a Grenache would all be excellent choices.

Pairing Wine With Duck Confit

This dish is cooked and fully submerged in rendered duck fat, which actually helps preserve the dish and what the word “confit” means in French. Duck confit has very tender and silky texture, with a lot of subtle herb flavors. Because of the high fat content, choose a wine with high acidity. We recommend a Pinot Noir, Syrah or a Malbec to drink with this classic French dish.

Best Red Wine To Pair With Duck

Duck meat is slightly closer to red meat than white meat, which makes it pair well with red wines. The style of wine depends a lot on the method of preparation as well, however you won’t be making a mistake if you stick to light to medium bodied red wines with medium to high acidity and low to medium tannins. 

Flavor profile should be more red fruit oriented with hints of black fruit aromas complemented with a subtle spice from oak aging, such as cloves, cinnamon and smoke aromas. 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. Here are a few of our favorite red wines to drink with duck.

Pinot Noir from France 

Since Duck meat can be gamey with hints of earthy aromas, what can be a better choice than a red fruit dominated Pinot Noir from Burgundy. Medium to high acidity with low to medium tannins will cut through the meat and break it down on your palate. The flavor profile of a Pinot fits the duck meat, making it a sophisticated wine pairing which will make your head spin. 

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.  

If you prefer a more fruit forward style, you can go for a New World Pinot. 

Syrah from South Africa

South African Syrah tends to lean more towards a full bodied red wine, however if you have one from a cooler, coastal area of South Africa they tend to be a bit lighter than their inland counterparts. Syrah has more of a black fruit aroma with a floral, violet nose and a bit of peppery, gamey flavor which will enhance the flavor of duck meat. 

Malbec from Argentina

Silky, smooth tannins of an Argentinian Malbec will be a great pairing with duck meat. The blue fruit flavors with hints of red and black fruit will pair nicely with the aroma of the meat. When aged in oak, and they almost always are, they have a chocolaty flavor which will complement the duck. 

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.

Mourvedre from France

Now this is a full bodied, heavy wine with lots of gamey aromas. In case you like your reds full bodied and robust, we highly recommend this grape variety. Grown in the south of France it makes wines with lots of tannins, full body and a medium level of acidity. 

It can pair well with duck, however it can overpower it easily. Try to have it with duck meat if you have a thick sauce or gravy on the side. 

Other Red Wines To Drink 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.

Best White Wine To Pair With Duck

Since duck meat is somewhat in between white and red meat you might as well try some white wine with it. The acidity in white wines will help cut through the fat of the duck and with a good texture it will make your palate excited. With white wines you should definitely take the recipe into account as it makes a big difference in the pairing. 

For preparations featuring fruit components, such as a sauce or glaze, or Asian-inspired meals, we would be inclined towards a white wine offering. Here are some of our favorite white wines to drink with duck.

Pinot Gris from France

An off-dry Pinot Gris from France will make a great pairing for an Asian style duck with Chinese five spice and hoisin sauce. The sweetness level will balance the heat in the dish and the spicy flavor of Pinot Gris will pair perfectly with the five spice. 

Sauvignon Blanc from Chile

If your duck is cooked with fruit it will pair nicely with the freshness and herbal aromas of Sauvignon Blanc. The acidity is high, it cuts through the fat, the wine is refreshing and it will cleanse your palate. Another great option is having a late harvested Sauvignon Blanc as it will pair perfectly with the fruit.

Chenin Blanc from France 

An acidic, fuller bodied Chenin Blanc from the Loire makes a great pairing for duck meat. It has a bit of a heavier texture with lots of citrus fruit, stone fruit, butter and smoke aromas which will enhance a roasted duck with a bit of butter. 

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.

Other White Wines To Drink With Duck

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.

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. There are quite a lot of options to choose from and we would recommend trying them all. In general, wines to pair with duck should have a good acidity level, a medium body with good texture and for reds, low to medium tannins however even a fuller red might work well. 

  • Pinot Noir from France 
  • Syrah from South Africa
  • Mourvedre from France
  • Malbec from Argentina
  • Pinot Gris from France
  • Grüner Veltliner
  • Gamay (Beaujolais)
  • Chenin Blanc

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