Duck wine pairing

Published March 19th, 2022 - Updated March 24th, 2023

Duck meat has been highly appreciated since ancient times. It was consumed by the Etruscans, and subsequently its use spread first in Northern Italy, up to all of Europe and China.

Its meat is red and high in protein but tender like poultry, and although slightly more greasy, its fat is mainly concentrated in the skin. It has delicate gamey flavors and is easily combined with fruit. As with chicken, most of the taste comes from cooking and sauces.

This tasty meat is quite versatile and can require a more or less structured wine which can be white, red, or rosé depending on the cut and the recipe.

Here are our suggestions for the best duck wine pairing.

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Red or white wine with duck

Pairing wine with duck can be extremely fun as basically duck can be paired with any type of wine, but sauce and sides will play an important role in the aromatic profile of the dish.

Light red wines or whites are the most suitable for slow cooking duck or recipes that do not involve caramelization of the skin and fruity sauces.

For roast or confit duck, and any cooking method that enhances the strong flavors and fattiness of the skin, the choice should fall on a more powerful red.

Rosé wines can be a good compromise and a reasonable catch-all solution. And finally a noteworthy exception will be foie gras, which goes well with sweet wines.

Red wines you can drink with duck

Red wine can be the perfect choice for duck, but depending on the recipe you may need to choose different styles of wine.

A young Pinot Noir from Burgundy or an Etna Rosso will guarantee the delicate freshness and intense aromas to enhance the richness of a dish of tagliatelle with duck sauce.

When serving duck breast, it would be good to play with regional pairings and choose red wines from southwestern France, like a fruity and fresh Bergerac.

A Barbera d'Asti or a Valpolicella Classico, with their lively freshness and juicy fruitiness, can work well with dishes with a tendency to sweet and good fatness like roast duck.

A wine from the Rhone Valley, such as a Côte-Rôtie, can bring out the finesse of a spiced duck aiguillette. The peppery notes of this Syrah-based red wine are reminiscent of the spices used, while its aromas of red and black fruits give fullness to your dishes.

When the recipe is slightly more structured, the wine should be able to balance the greasiness and long cooking of the preparation. A Sagrantino di Montefalco, for example, would be the perfect choice for a duck stew in red wine or a duck confit, as this type of wine is able to enhance the aromas and flavors and resist the complexity of the dish.

White wines to pair with duck

Duck matches deliciously with white wines, but it is essential to evaluate its structure and aroma. Most Asian-style duck dishes, sweet or spicy, will benefit from a touch of sweetness in the wine. More full-bodied whites, perhaps aged in oak, can also be paired with more complex dishes.

A good Gewurztraminer, especially from Alsace, will have the body to balance the texture of the meat and the aromatic complexity to enhance the sweetness of the duck meat.

The delicate sweetness of an off-dry wine like a Vouvray Demi-Sec will pair well with spices, while the acidity and body of the wine will withstand the overall intensity of an Asian dish.

An oaky Chenin Blanc, perhaps from South Africa, will be a good partner for the smoky flavors and juiciness of a barbecue duck breast.

A solid and rich Burgundy Chardonnay is a great choice for braised duck or pan-seared foie gras: its creaminess is sure to offer perfect roundness to balance these dishes.

If you are looking for something more particular, try a Ribolla Gialla. Its rich flavors and medium body will perfectly match a duck à l'orange.

Sparkling wine with duck

Sparkling wines can also be paired with duck-based preparations. Clearly, paying attention to the style of the wine is essential as the meat can easily overwhelm the wine in some cases.

The brioche notes of vintage Champagne and the intense aroma of Prosecco Superiore go well with appetizers and cold preparations such as foie gras terrine or  mousse.

The acidity of these wines will create a perfect balance with the richness of the foie gras, while the bubbles will cleanse the palate of fatness.

Can I pair duck with a sweet wine?

The answer is yes. Absolutely!

In fact, sweet wine is a perfect companion to foie gras.

Foie gras delights the palate with a subtle sweet tendency and a voluptuous softness, just enlivened by a delicate sapidity, and tinged with a final touch of bitterness. If obtained from goose, foie gras tends to be more refined and to have sweeter notes, while it is a little more incisive and rustic if made from duck.

A sweet wine, possibly not too sweet and aged for a few years, will harmonize beautifully with foie gras, both in terrine and pan-seared, creating a perfect combination with the strong flavors and sweet tendency of the liver.

5 duck recipes and how to pair them with wine

Roasted Duck

Roasted duck has an abundance of intense meat flavors paired with skin caramelization that infuses all its succulence.  However, inside, the meat remains tender and mild in taste.

So unless it's served with a strong flavored side or with a red wine duck sauce, it's best to choose a relatively light style of wine. Since duck is greasy, be sure to opt for a red with solid acidity to cut through the richness of the meat and avoid high-alcohol wines that may override the taste. Pinot Noir, Barbera, Nebbiolo, Valpolicella, Lirac will do the job exquisitely.

Our suggestion: Valpolicella Classico DOC, Allegrini

Duck confit

Duck confit is one of the most classic French dishes, particularly popular in the southwest, where it is a staple of traditional cuisine. It is prepared according to a centuries-old preservation process, in which the duck meat is first salted and then cooked for hours in its own fat to soften it. Duck confit has an elegant yet strong rustic flavor.

The south-west of France associates it with its local, rich and tannic red wines, such as Cahors. The wine must have strong enough flavors to resist the intense taste of the dish and dense tannins to reduce the abundance of fat.

Among the Italian wines, Aglianico del Vulture or Sagrantino di Montefalco will be the best pick.

Our suggestion: Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG "RC2", Famiglia Cotarella

Chinese Roast Duck (Peking Duck)

A typical dish of Chinese culture since the 14th century, Peking Duck was appreciated at the imperial court of the Ming dynasty before becoming an emblem of national gastronomy. This traditional dish is renowned around the world for its sweet and savory flavors and shiny copper-colored crisp skin, abundant pulp and sweet fat.

Despite being a very popular choice, light and fruity red wines such as Pinot Noir are not quite the best companions. Tannins tend to become astringent and bitter in the presence of sugar, and strong acidity can also clash. An aromatic and full-bodied white wine, such as a Chenin Blanc, a Gewurztraminer, or a Jurancon Sec will be perfectly capable to balance the sweetness.

Our suggestion: Alsace Gewürztraminer 2019 - Domaine Zind-Humbrecht

Duck a l’Orange

Similar to the Peking duck but slightly sweeter, duck à l'orange is another traditional French recipe. Here the challenge for a good duck wine pairing, is to simultaneously counterbalance not only the sweetness but also the sourness of the dish.

Forget red wines, as tannins won’t work in combination with orange reduction.

In general, the best wine with duck à l’orange would be a Riesling Off Dry, or a Vouvray Demi Sec that will add delicate fruity and herbaceous notes to the pairing. Their sweetness combined with a nice note of acidity will give a boost.

Our suggestion: Mosel Riesling Graacher Domprobst Spätlese, Weingut Selbach-Oster

Foie Gras

Foie gras, usually served with sliced bread and grains of salt, is probably the simplest duck dish to pair with wine.

Traditionally, it is paired with a sweet wine to enhance its great finesse, both in terms of taste and texture. Our advice is to follow the tradition and accompany it with a French Sauternes or Monbazillac, a Picolit from Friuli Venezia Giulia, a German Riesling or a Hungarian Tokaji, for a delightful combination!

Our suggestion: Monbazillac, Chateau Monbazillac


Duck is an extremely versatile meat. It is considered poultry but has pink flesh and oily skin which makes everything so much tastier!

In addition, there are thousands of different recipes, in which both the sauces and the type of cooking can change the structure of the dish.

The combinations with wine can therefore be innumerable.

Instead of choosing a wine for your dish, try going in the opposite direction: choose the wine you want to drink following our recommendations and cook the duck accordingly.