Mallard duck hunting season may be upon us, but – for those who prefer them, there are enough places farming good quality ducks to provide us with tasty and shottless alternatives. Wherever you get it from, here's how to match your duck with great wines.
Wine with duck: Top matches
Duck à l’orange – high acid, rich white, or fruity, low tannin red
Confit duck – big, powerful, rustic reds
Duck breast – medium tannin red, like Pinot Noir
Getting your ducks in row – with wine
Duck meat presents a bit of a paradox as some classify it as red meat, while others consider it to be poultry. Although ducks do fly and have feathers, they’re fatter, bloodier and firmer than your average chicken or turkey.
Their meat is also significantly different to that of other poultry due to farming practices. When force-fed, the bird generally gets bigger and fatter and will therefore provide tastier meat. This is especially relevant when purchasing duck breasts as the meatier ones are more likely to come from force-fed ducks.
Duck à l’orange
Ducks can be prepared in many different ways, and the styles of wines to match with these dishes will vary accordingly. A classic French recipe, which Le Cordon Bleu London students learn during the programme on our Basic Cuisine Certificate, is duck à l’orange. In this recipe the duck is pot roasted and served with a sauce, which is made by adding orange juice, stock and light brown caramel deglazed with vinegar to the cooking juices.
This dish is really tasty as it combines the firm texture and intense flavour of the duck served pink with the sweet and sourness of the sauce. The white wine option needs to have enough acidity and a hint of richness to cope with the sauce, yet enough body not to be overwhelmed by the texture of the bird.
A Pinot Gris from Alsace with a little bit of bottle-age, like the Alsace Pinot Gris Marcel Deiss 2012 would be perfect. If red wine is preferred, low tannins, bright red fruits and high acidity is a must. A Cru Beaujolais should do the trick but if you want to be a bit more adventurous, try a young style of Mencia from Galicia in northern Spain such as the Monterrei, Mencia Benito Santos 2015.
A very traditional way to preserve duck legs in the South West of France is to slow-cook them in their own fat with seasoning for two hours, which is another dish that is taught to our students during the ‘Classic Cycle’ but on the Intermediate Cuisine Certificate. The duck can then be kept in sterilised containers for several months. All that one needs to do prior to eating them is warm them up on the rack of a baking tray under the grill, to render the skin crispy, and eliminate any surplus fat. The contrast of the crispy skin and the salty confit flesh will melt in your mouth and deserves a gutsy red wine.
This gives you an opportunity to serve some of the wines that take forever to age because they are quite tannic and rustic; the so called food wine with unforgiving structure – but with so much character. To keep the match regional, straight from ‘confit country’, a Madiran, Domaine Berthoumieux Cuvee Charles de Batz 2010 would be fantastic. An alternative could be Portuguese Baga, Italian Aglianico, or Spanish Monastrell.
If you don’t want to mess around with the whole fowl, you can purchase the breast only. In this case, you score the fatty skin and place it directly in a pan at moderate temperature taking care to remove the fat as it appears until you are left with a very thin crispy sliver. You can then turn it over and finish cooking it pink. Like when cooking any other meat, don’t forget to rest the breast a bit before cutting or serving so that the meat stays tender and moist.
At Le Cordon Bleu London, we serve it with a lingonberry sauce that is slightly bitter and sour, and not too sweet. In this case the wine should be red but as long as it is not too tannic. The classic match would be a Pinot Noir. The 2014 Carrick Estate, Bannockburn Pinot Noir from Central Otago in New Zealand which is juicy, spicy, brimming with red cherries – but yet very elegant, is definitely up to the task.
As winter is creeping upon us and wood burners and fireplaces light up across the country – what could be more suitable than serving up a lovely duck dish with some red wine? Very little, in my opinion.
About Matthieu Longuère MS
Sommelier in the UK since 1994, he has won numerous awards and accolades for wine lists in the establishments for which he has worked: Lucknam Park Country House Hotel, Hotel du Vin Bristol and La Trompette.
Since joining Le Cordon Bleu in 2013, he has developed the school’s comprehensive Diploma in Wine, Gastronomy and Management; a unique programme which combines the theory of wine with a strong emphasis on practical learning.
Alongside the full Diploma, he also teaches an array of evening classes which are relaxed, yet studious, making them perfect for beginners as well as the more knowledgeable.
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