Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion or you simply enjoy hosting the occasional dinner, you’ll eventually find yourself facing that critical decision: what do you serve for the meal?
Let’s say you’ve selected duck—a fantastic choice. What wine will you pair with your duck entree, and does the style of cooking matter? Read on for our guide to pairing wine and duck.
Why Pair Duck with Wine?
As with many fine meals, excellence in one portion can highlight excellence in the other. That’s why duck and wine go hand in hand. They are superb on their own and exceptional together.
Duck is considered a dark meat and as such has a stronger, gamier flavor profile. Yet it is still poultry, and this means duck is tender, delicate and can take its taste from the manner in which it’s cooked. In addition, duck is richer and slightly fattier than chicken, which makes it even more versatile with wine pairing.
Tips on Wine Pairing with Duck
You’re not alone if you get a bit confused with what wine to pair with duck. Although naturally you’re free to choose whatever wine you want, you’ll often find success if you follow a few general rules.
1. Pair slow-cooked, fruity, spicy or mild-flavored duck with whites and lighter acidic reds.
2. Pair rich, fatty or strongly flavored duck with bold reds higher in tannins.
3. Pair roasted and moderate-intensity duck with medium tannin reds.
4. Pair duck pate or fois gras with a sweet white or a late harvest white wine.
Duck and pinot noir is a classic pairing because both offer moderate intensity, with pinot noir’s acidity balancing out the fattiness of duck. Since duck often cooks well with fruit, the fruity notes in pinot couldn’t be any better of a match.
Always remember to match intensity with intensity. Although duck has a stronger natural flavor than chicken, it is still poultry and must be treated with care. Duck tends to take on the flavor of the sauce or spice much like chicken does, but it shows off more of its inherent aroma when caramelized or braised.
7 Wine and Duck Pairings
Now that you have an understanding of how to match wine according to the dish, it’s time to look at a few excellent pairings.
Roasted Duck and Barolo
A roasted duck tends to bring out deeper flavors, which is why Barolo works thanks to moderate tannins and pleasing fruity and herbal notes. Although this red wine has stronger tannins, it has high enough acidity to balance out the fattiness in the dish. Barolo also reveals a subtle earthiness that works well with roasted duck and mushrooms or root vegetables.
Curried Duck and Gewurztraminer
When looking for a wine to match a spicy dish like curried duck, lean toward one with its own spicy kick. Gewurztraminer is aromatic and rich in certain spice notes, especially ginger, cinnamon and pepper. This zestiness makes it ideal for dishes that have a touch of heat along with the spice. Gewurztraminer can also tame the heat of curried duck thanks to its slight sweetness.
Duck Pate and Sauternes
This pairing is rich, with the creamy duck pate perfectly suiting the sweet botrytized taste of Sauternes. The wine also has enough acidity to cut through the rich, fatty pate. Most matches are designed to complement, but with duck pate, the idea is to contrast such a bold and decadently savory dish with an equally decadent but sweet wine like Sauternes.
Duck a L’Orange and Beaujolais
As you know, this dish is highly fruity, and that means you need a wine with a good fruit profile. Beaujolais has plenty of raspberry, cranberry and cherry notes – perfect for a citrus-based duck dish. It also has good acidity and low tannins, which makes it a match for duck a l’orange. Beaujolais and the duck dish are aromatic and fruit-forward, and an excellent match.
Duck Confit and Malbec
A dish like duck confit is rustic and intense, and it needs an equally intense wine to accompany it. Malbec is full-bodied with robust tannins and powerful dark fruits. It also reveals certain smokiness that can match up with the rustic nature of duck confit. The dish is quite salty, requiring a wine like Malbec that adds its own dimension with savory and earthy notes.
Peking Duck and Zinfandel
Like other Asian dishes, Peking duck has plenty of heat and sweet and sour contrasts. It also has a bold plum sauce and crispy skin. This pleasing combination works well with a wine like Zinfandel, which has its own strong fruits and intense spices like pepper and cinnamon. Zinfandel harmonizes with the sweet and sour flavors of the duck, and its full body and higher tannins are just enough without overpowering.
Pan-seared Duck Breast and Pinot Noir
Finally, duck and pinot noir is a match that can never go wrong. Pan-seared duck offers a lighter taste than other styles of cooking, so it doesn’t have the high fat or richness of other duck dishes. That’s why Pinot Noir makes such a good match. It has lower tannins so it won’t overwhelm, but it also has good acidity to complement the fat that duck does contain. Pan-seared duck can take on stronger flavors, but the flexibility of Pinot Noir means it can handle the change.
And there you have it! Wine and duck pairings are abundant and highly varied, so you can choose your main course and still have plenty of options for wine.
If you’re still unsure of which wine works best for your meal, don’t hesitate to reach out to our experts at JJ Buckley Fine Wines. We offer an online catalog and a large collection of fine wines sure to make your dinner event a hit!