Written by: Tim Edison

Updated: January 5, 2024

Best Wines with Duck [Ultimate Food Pairing Guide]

Duck and wine food pairings

Today, I want to share my insights on a pairing that's close to my heart: duck and wine.

Duck, with its rich, fatty, and flavorful profile, requires a wine that can stand up to its robust nature.

And in my experience, there's one wine that does this beautifully: Pinot Noir.

I'll explain how to choose the right Pinot down below, and I'll also recommend the best wine for every popular duck dish (that I can think of anyway!).


Understanding Duck as a Dish

Duck is a culinary delight. It's richer than chicken, with a distinctive taste that's both gamey and slightly sweet.

Its fat content gives it a succulent, melt-in-your-mouth quality that's hard to resist.

Whether it's roasted to a perfect medium-rare, slow-cooked in its own fat for a classic duck confit, or smoked and served in a salad, duck is a versatile meat that offers a wealth of flavors.

Roasted duck fillet


Choosing a Wine to Pair with Duck

Duck is a rich, fatty, dark meat that fits somewhere in between more delicate chicken meat and heavy red meat like pork and beef.

That means we need a wine that's a bit bolder than our average chicken pairing but not as powerful as a wine we might pair with red meat.

White wine isn't out of the question, but a rich, fuller-bodied variety is a smart choice. Gewurztraminer or Pinot Grigio work best. An aromatic Gewurztraminer works really with Asian duck, which is usually slightly sweet.

Fruity red wines are really the way to go for most duck dishes. Something that's got some great acidity and fruit but it's not overly tannic.

If the duck is roasted, we might need something with a bit more body and tannin.

Duck that is exceptionally fatty and/or strong flavored needs a bolder wine with tannin to boot.

Duck fois gras and rich pâtés suit something a bit sweeter like a Sauternes or late harvest wine.

Different wine serving temperatures


My Recommended Wine with Duck: Pinot Noir

In my opinion, there's only one winner and it's not even a close contest. Pinot Noir and duck were just made for each other.

Pinot is a medium-bodied red wine, known for its high acidity and low tannins, and these two components are crucial to the harmonious pairing it makes with duck. 

The acidity cuts through the fat, while the low tannins don't compete with the rich flavors of the meat.

Four graces pinot noir


Flavor Profile of Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is a complex wine with a wide range of flavors. It typically has notes of red fruit like cherry and raspberry, but it can also have earthy undertones of mushroom and forest floor.

These flavors complement the gamey, rich nature of duck, creating a balance that just works really well.


Choosing the Right Pinot Noir

When choosing a Pinot Noir, there are two things to give careful consideration (besides the price):

  • Consider the Region: Pinot Noir is grown in various regions around the world, each imparting its unique characteristics to the wine. For instance, Pinot Noir from Burgundy, France, its original home, tends to be earthy and complex, which can complement the gamey flavors of duck. On the other hand, Pinot Noir from California or Oregon tends to have more fruit-forward flavors, which can balance the richness of the duck.
  • Think About the Dish: The specific duck dish you're serving can also influence your choice. If your duck dish has a sweet element, like a cherry glaze, a fruitier New World Pinot Noir might be a good match. If your duck is roasted with herbs and served with a savory sauce, an earthier Old World Pinot Noir might be better.
Peking duck

Peking duck ready to eat


Popular Duck Dishes and their Perfect Pair

While Pinot Noir is my perfect duck wine pairing, there are other wines that pair well with specific duck dishes.

For instance, a fruity Zinfandel can be a great match for duck with a sweet sauce like hoisin.

A Merlot, with its notes of plum and black cherry, can complement a roasted duck beautifully.

  • Roasted Duck: A full-bodied Merlot enhances the rich flavors of roasted duck.
  • Duck Pâté: A rich and creamy duck pâté pairs really well with Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris wines. A buttery Chardonnay can work well here too.
  • Duck Confit: Pinot Noir is the natural duck confit wine pairing, but if you prefer a white wine a German Riesling can work wonders. Just make sure it's dry to off-dry.
  • Duck with Hoisin Sauce: A fruity Zinfandel or Merlot pairs well with the sweetness of a hoisin sauce.
  • Duck a l’Orange: Gewurztraminer, with its fruity, floral notes, pairs wonderfully with this classic French dish.
  • Apple-Stuffed Duck (Kaczka z jabłkami): This traditional Polish dish is a roasted duck stuffed with apples. The sweetness of the apples and the richness of the duck would pair well with a full-bodied Chardonnay, which has enough acidity to cut through the fat and complement the apple stuffing.
  • Smoked Duck: Smoked duck is a rich and flavorful dish. A Zinfandel with its bold, fruit-forward profile and a hint of smokiness would be a great match, enhancing the smoky flavors of the duck.
  • Arroz de Pato: This flavorful duck meat and rice dish from Portugal pairs well with a robust, full-bodied Douro blend with dark fruit flavors and great acidity to stand up to the rich flavors of the dish.
  • Bebek Goreng: This Indonesian fried duck dish, known for its crispiness and succulent meat goes really well with an off-dry German Riesling. The acidity and sight sweetness work well with the spice.
  • Magret de Canard: This flash-seared duck breast dish pairs really well with Bordeaux blends. 
  • Peking Duck: This is a roasted duck dish known for its thin, crispy skin. A fruity, off-dry Riesling balances the rich, fatty flavors of the duck and the sweet and salty sauce that typically accompanies Peking duck. Alternatively, an Australian Shiraz is a great pair.
  • Duck Foie Gras: The all-time classic foie gras pairing is with Sauternes. Late harvest white wines are great pairs here.

Conclusion

Pairing duck with wine is an art, and like any art, it requires a bit of knowledge, a bit of practice, and a lot of passion.

Pinot Noir, with its high acidity and complex flavors, is a fantastic match for duck.

But don't stop there.

The world of wine is vast and varied, and there are many other wines that can complement duck beautifully.

From the fruity notes of Zinfandel to the bold flavors of Merlot, there's a wine for every duck dish and every palate.

Remember, the best wine pairing is the one that brings you joy. So don't be afraid to experiment and find your own perfect match. 

After all, the joy of food and wine lies in the adventure and the discovery.

So, here's to finding your perfect duck and wine pairing!

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About the Author Tim Edison


Tim started Wine Turtle way back in 2015.
These days he contributes to Wine Turtle (and other renowned wine publications) while continuing his wine education.
Tim's wine of the month is the Coates & Seely Reserve Brut NV (from Hampshire, England).



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