Poultry is a popular category of meat all over the world. While most people connect it to chicken, other delicious poultry meats make great dishes as well. One of them is duck. Some of the best duck dishes come from France, but Asian countries also have a tradition of making fabulous duck meals. And many of them are even better with the right glass of wine. But which duck and wine pairings actually work?

When combining duck and wine, choose a light red wine or a medium- to full-bodied white wine. Rosé wine is a good alternative in many cases, too. Make sure, the wine has some acidity, but a rather low level of tannins.

Depending on the preparation method and the side dishes, other duck and wine pairings might be an option. In some cases, you can even choose sweet or sparkling wines. But before we go into specific duck and wine pairings, let’s have a quick look at the characteristics of duck meat.

What Is Duck and How Does It Taste?

Duck meat belongs to the category of poultry and thus is considered white meat. That’s despite the fact that it’s darker than other poultry meats. Typically, duck meat comes from either the breast or the legs. In comparison with chicken, it’s fattier and more flavorful. In some cases, it might remind you of game rather than poultry.

The Best Duck and Wine Pairings

To compose the optimal duck and wine pairing, you should consider the specific dish. That includes the preparation method, the seasoning, and the side dishes. Some of these combinations might call for other wines than those stated above. So let’s talk about the best duck and wine pairings.

Peking Duck and Wine

One of the most popular dishes from Asian cuisine is Peking duck. It’s also one of the oldest recipes with a history going back to the 13th century. The duck gets cooked until its skin becomes golden and crispy, and the meat is very tender. Usually, Peking duck comes with steamed spring pancakes, different vegetables, and sauce. Hoisin sauce is the traditional choice that adds powerful sweet, salty, and spicy aromas. Another option is a plum sauce, which is more viscous and not as salty and spicy.

Peking Duck with Vegetables and Sauces

Peking Duck with Vegetables and Spring Pancakes

The right wine to match these flavors is a fruity red with a medium body. Think of a Grenache or a Pinot Noir. Their aromas of red fruits match the meal’s flavor profile superbly, while their tannins aren’t too powerful. A Zinfandel can be a good match as well, given it isn’t too bold.

For white wine lovers, a Chardonnay is a nice pairing for Peking duck. Make sure to go on an unoaked wine, though. It should be ripe and feature notes of tropical fruit to complement the dish’s aromas.

Orange Duck and Wine

A traditional recipe from France is Orange Duck (or “Canard à l’Orange”, as the French say). Especially for Christmas dinner, this crispy roast is a delicious classic. Orange duck features rich meat, sweetness, and acidity from oranges, and subtle tart and bitter notes.

The optimal Peking duck and wine pairing calls for a fruity white wine from France. It needs some acidity to cut through the meat, but it should be low in tannins. Go for an Alsace Gewürztraminer or a Chenin Blanc from the Loire region:

Domaine Huet Vouvray Sec Le Haut Lieu 2019

  • type: white, still, Vintage
  • origin: Loire, France
  • varietal: Chenin Blanc
  • alcohol: 13.0%

Marc Bredif Vouvray 2019

  • type: white, still, Vintage
  • origin: Loire, France
  • varietal: Chenin Blanc
  • alcohol: 13.0%

Domaine Huet Vouvray Le Mont Moelleux 2020

  • type: white, still, Vintage
  • origin: Loire, France
  • varietal: Chenin Blanc
  • alcohol: 13.0%

Trimbach Gewürztraminer 2017

  • type: white, still, Vintage
  • origin: Alsace, France
  • varietal: Gewürztraminer
  • alcohol: 14.0%

Zind-Humbrecht Gewürztraminer 2019

  • type: white, still, Vintage
  • origin: Alsace, France
  • varietal: Gewürztraminer
  • alcohol: 14.0%

Albert Boxler Gewürztraminer Reserve 2018

  • type: white, still, Vintage
  • origin: Alsace, France
  • varietal: Gewürztraminer
  • alcohol: 14.0%

If you are a fan of bold whites, here’s another suggestion: The spicy vanilla notes of an oaked Chardonnay, for instance, from the United States, make a great duck and wine pairing. Try these wines:

Staglin Chardonnay 2019

  • type: white, still, Vintage
  • origin: United States, California
  • varietal: Chardonnay
  • alcohol: 14.0%

Mayacamas Chardonnay 2017

  • type: white, still, Vintage
  • origin: United States, California
  • varietal: Chardonnay
  • alcohol: 14.0%

Beringer Luminus Chardonnay 2019

  • type: white, still, Vintage
  • origin: United States, California
  • varietal: Chardonnay
  • alcohol: 14.5%

Confit de Canard and Wine

Another classic duck dish from France is Confit de Canard (English: preserved duck). As the name hints, this preparation method was a means to preserve duck for later consumption originally. Nowadays, refrigerations can do this job much better. But the French still follow this preparation technique to create a very flavorful meal.

First, the meat is marinated with salt, pepper, and other spices and herbs such as bay leaves, garlic, or thyme. Then, it slow-roasts in its own fat for up to 24 hours, traditionally in a copper pot. After this preparation, it’s so flavorful that you can serve it without a sauce. Instead, it goes with scalloped or mashed potatoes and steamed or fried vegetables.

Confit de Canard is a very wine-friendly dish and a great basis for a variety of duck and wine pairings. A very common recommendation to enjoy with this dish is Alsace Pinot Gris. Vintners harvest the grapes for this white wine late in the year, so they contain a lot of sugar. The wines they make from these grapes are medium- to full-bodied and deliciously sweet:

Domaines Schlumberger Spiegel Grand Cru 2018

  • type: white, still, sweet, Vintage
  • origin: France, Alsace
  • varietal: Pinot Gris
  • alcohol: 13.5%

Albert Boxler Sommerberg Wibtal 2016

  • type: white, still, off-dry, Vintage
  • origin: France, Alsace
  • varietal: Pinot Gris
  • alcohol: 14.0%

Leon Beyer Pinot Gris 2016

  • type: white, still, off-dry, Vintage
  • origin: France, Alsace
  • varietal: Pinot Gris
  • alcohol: 13.5%

In case you aren’t a fan of sweet wine, try a Marsanne or a Roussanne wine. Both varieties are native to the French Rhône Valley and produce dry, medium-bodied white wines that feature citrus and tropical fruit flavors. A red alternative to pair with Confit de Canard is, for instance, Burgundy wine. In general, lighter styles are better than bolder variations. Here is a list of recommendations:

Joseph Drouhin Laforet Pinot Noir 2019

  • type: red, still, Vintage
  • origin: France, Burgundy
  • varietal: Pinot Noir
  • alcohol: 12.5%

Remoissenet Beaune Teurons Premier Cru 2019

  • type: red, still, Vintage
  • origin: France, Burgundy
  • varietal: Pinot Noir
  • alcohol: 14.0%

Domaine Comte Georges de Vogue Bonnes-Mares Grand Cru 2018

  • type: red, still, Vintage
  • origin: France, Burgundy
  • varietal: Pinot Noir
  • alcohol: 13.0%

Foie Gras and Wine

Here is another French duck dish: Foie gras. It’s made from a duck’s liver (or alternatively a goose’s liver) and is considered a delicacy in France. Traditionally, the French season foie gras with mushrooms and cognac (or a similar spirit), cook it at low temperatures and serve it cold. But it becomes more and more common to grill, roast, or sear it at higher temperatures. No matter the preparation, foie gras is a rich and fatty dish that calls for a juicy wine.

A sweet dessert wine is a perfect wine for foie gras. To cut through the fat, it should have a high acidity level. Noble rot wines such as Hungarian Tokaji or French Sauternes belong to this category. They both have an outstanding balance, so neither their acidity nor their sweetness dominates the taste. The formerly mentioned Alsace Pinot Gris is less sweet but nevertheless a fine wine pairing for foie gras.

These bottles are great picks for this duck and wine pairing:

Kiralyudvar Tokaji Aszu 6 Puttonyos 2008

  • type: white, still, Vintage
  • origin: Hungary, Tokaj
  • varietal: Furmint, Hárslevelű
  • alcohol: 10.0%

Royal Tokaji 5 Puttonyos (Red Label) 2016

  • type: white, still, Vintage
  • origin: Hungary, Tokaj
  • varietal: Furmint, Hárslevelű
  • alcohol: 11.5%

Royal Tokaji Late Harvest 2018

  • type: white, still, Vintage
  • origin: Hungary, Tokaj
  • varietal: Furmint, Hárslevelű, Muscat
  • alcohol: 11.5%

Chateau Bastor-Lamontagne Sauternes 2016

  • type: white, still, Vintage
  • origin: France, Bordeaux
  • varietal: Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon
  • alcohol: 14.0%

Chateau Guiraud Sauternes 2020

  • type: white, still, Vintage
  • origin: France, Bordeaux
  • varietal: Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon
  • alcohol: 13.5%

Chateau d'Yquem Sauternes 1999

  • type: white, still, Vintage
  • origin: France, Bordeaux
  • varietal: Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon
  • alcohol: 14.0%

Curry with Duck and Wine

Asian cuisine is famous for its fabulous curry dishes. And one of the best curry dishes is Thai Red Curry. This dish from Thailand offers a complex combination of aromas, including hot chiles, spicy onions, salty fish sauce, a bit of sugar, and multiple herbs. Chefs prepare it with all types of meats. When they choose duck, they typically use breast meat, either with or without the skin. The result is a rich, mildly spicy meal.

Combining curry with duck and wine is a bit difficult. On the one hand, you need a wine that can counter the spiciness. But on the other hand, you don’t want to overpower the dish with a bold wine.

A great match for duck curry is a semi-dry white wine. Especially wines with aromas of citrus or tropical fruit complement the curry flavors excellently. They need a good acidity level to help clean your palate and reduce the heat after having a bite. Gewürztraminer from the Alsace region in France is precisely that. And you might also find bottles from California or Washington State that fulfill these criteria.

Duck Cassoulet and Wine

Last but not least, here’s one final dish for a French duck and wine pairing: Duck Cassoulet. Cassoulet is a stew made from white beans, bacon, garlic, and several herbs. Besides, it contains at least one, but often multiple types of meat such as beef, pork, lamb, goose, or duck. All ingredients slow-cook in a ceramic pot called “Cassole”, from which the dish’s name derives.

Duck Cassoulet is a very hearty, flavorful meal. To counter the dominating meat aromas and create an enjoyable duck and wine pairing, you need a powerful, full-bodied wine. For red wine lovers, a bold Zinfandel, Barolo, or Malbec is the right choice. These wines have the tannins, the acidity, and the structure it needs to stand the rich Cassoulet.

These Malbec wines are great choices for a delicious duck and wine pairing:

Crocus L'Atelier Malbec de Cahors 2018

  • type: red, still, Vintage
  • origin: France, Southwest France
  • varietal: Malbec
  • alcohol: 14.5%

Cosse et Maisonneuve Cahors Solis Malbec 2018

  • type: red, still, Vintage
  • origin: France, Southwest France
  • varietal: Malbec
  • alcohol: 14.5%

Chateau Du Caillau Cahors 2019

  • type: red, still, Vintage
  • origin: France, Southwest France
  • varietal: Malbec
  • alcohol: 13.5%

In case you prefer a white duck and wine pairing, you are somewhat limited in your options. Only full-bodied whites that spent some time aging in oak barrels have the power to stand Duck Cassoulet. Try a New World Chardonnay, for example, the formerly mentioned styles from California.

Final Words

There is a wide variety of great duck dishes. You can consider many of them festival dishes as they are so rich in flavor (and require plenty of time for preparation). And what could be better than a delicious festival meal with a fine glass of wine? With the information from this article, you are ready to compose great duck and wine pairings and provide a fantastic culinary experience to your guests. Enjoy!