Duck Confit is one of my favourite dishes. If it is on a restaurant menu, I normally have to have it, so I know it pretty well. Recently I had a conversation with a customer about pairing wine with duck confit. First of all, let me say, wine food pairing is not an exact science, there are no right or wrongs, and essentially wine and food matching is a personal decision, although one can try to point someone in the right direction.
So I was quite surprised when my customer suggested that Monbazillac is a good wine pairing with duck confit. I really can’t imagine this working. Surely a Monbazillac is going to be too sweet, with not enough acidity to cut through the fattiness of the duck. I know I shouldn’t knock it ‘til I’ve tried it. So that set me thinking, what are the best wines to drink with duck confit.
Duck confit flickr photo by LWYang shared under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license
First of all, you need to know a bit about Duck Confit. Duck Confit is basically made by salt-curing a duck leg and slowly poaching it in duck or goose fat with a few basic seasonings. It is a traditional method of preserving duck from Gascony in South West France. The duck leg is usually rubbed with salt, herbs (thyme) and garlic, covered and refrigerated for up to 36 hours. Then it is poached in the fat for anywhere from 4 to 10 hours. At this stage the duck legs can be left to cool and stored covered in the fat, canned or in jars. Most commonly duck confit is served by frying or grilling the leg portions so the skin becomes lovely and crisp. So, you can imagine, you have a pretty rich, gamey, flavoursome and relatively fatty bit of meat.
Red or White? Most schools of thought seem to be heading towards a red wine rather than a white, but some white wine with duck confit will work too.<
If you do want a white wine with duck confit, you need to be looking at the more aromatic wines with good acidity to cut through the fat of the duck confit, much in the same way that a good German Riesling or a Gewurztraminer can be great matches with Roast Duck or Peking Duck respectively. For duck confit I would personally go for a German Riesling, nothing too sweet, probably a good, fresh Spatlese (an Auslese will probably be too sweet). So I would perhaps suggest something like the Leitz Rudesheimer Magdalenenkreuz Riesling Spätlese from the Rhine – this great Spatlese is not too dry with superb lime / citrus characteristics, green apple but with a good mineral finish and the great acidity that you would need to stand up to the duck confit. A good dry Gewurztraminer might be a good alternative, in which case I would suggest a crisp, not too flowery one like the Trimbach Gewurztraminer from Alsace. A great wine, more refined and austere than some of the New World Gewurztraminers, although they would make a credible alternative.
Which brings me to the more traditional pairing of wine with duck confit. Red wine. A probably a Pinot Noir – this is what most of the wine books or discussions on wine forums reckon is the best match – although there are also a lot of recommendations for Bordeaux, or something a bit young and tannic to cut through the richness.
So, if one is going to go for a Pinot Noir, which one to go for? I think it needs to be fairly full Pinot, so something like a big, rich, well-structured Pommard from Burgundy would be good. Another great alternative would be a New World Pinot from New Zealand, California or perhaps Oregon.I would suggest the Marimar Torres La Masia Pinot Noir from California which has classic delicious aromas of Russian River fruit – raspberry and pomegranate show in the nose with hints of roast coffee. The palate has supple, silky tannins and spicy notes of coriander from the elegant oak ageing. From Oregon, the La Crema Willamette Oregon Pinot Noir would be a great choice “…the nose is complex with hints of violets, star anise, marionberry (an Oregon native) and bay leaf, while the palate displays more brambly fruit, coffee bean, pomegranate and candied orange zest”. All of these flavours and characteristics will make it a great wine with duck confit.
The other option is for a youngish, tannic red wine perhaps from the south of France. I think that a good Madiran or Cahors would be a good match. I would edge towards an Madiran. The Domaine Berthoumieu Madiran Cuvée Charles de Batz is powerful and has aromas of black and red fruits, a dense, full palate and firm, drying tannins. The power and the fruit, along with the tannins, make this a great match. Alternatively for a Bordeaux, would recommend something, young, fruit, quite masculine and Cabernet Sauvignon based – Chateau Lillian Ladouys from St Estephe is a great pairing. It is quite young, but very fruity and full but not heavy in an overbearing sense. There is plenty of depth and fruit and surprisingly supple tannins and hopefully not too dry.
Of course there is one other wine that I haven’t considered and that is Champagne or sparkling wine. There are some who say that Champagne goes with everything (who am I to argue). Why not try an Champagne or a good Hampshire sparkling wine? They have the acidity and the bubbles to cut through any fattiness. I think it is probably best to choose one that itsn’t bone dry, so a richer style of Champagne, like Taittinger’s fantastic Grand Crus blend, the Prelude would be a good match. Another idea is to try a Blanc de Noirs, the red grapes in a Blanc de Noirs tend to give the wines more red berry fruit character, and the Raimes Sparkling Blanc de Noirs from Arlesford in Hampshire would be a great wine to try with duck confit.
So, there’s some suggestions, any comment and feedback greatly appreciated. Do you have a favourite wine match? Let me know! After all, it is really all down to personal taste.