In Ireland we seem to shop from a very limited range of ingredients, with limited seasonal variation. Duck has made a welcome debut to our stores, and is now widely available. Much of it comes from Silver Hill, a family business based in Monaghan. They employ over 150 people and process 60,000 ducks per week! The Silver Hill duck is their own special hybrid of Pekin duck, which is renowned within the food industry for being flavoursome, succulent and tender. They supply 98% of the UK’s top Chinese restaurants, and Heston Blumenthal selected Silver Hill when he was searching for the Perfect Peking duck!
I love suggesting food pairings at my wine courses!
Duck is by nature full of flavour, with a considerable fat content. Therefore it calls for a wine with ample body and acidity. Duck is often served with a fruity sauce – orange, cherry or plum. A good tip I picked up at a tasting with from Fiona Beckett, would be to pick out the sauce’s flavour with a similar-tasting wine. Asian duck dishes may include hoisin, five spice, sweet chili sauce, star anise, ginger, honey or garlic. Some of these flavours are mirrored in certain wines. Overall, though, there’s a lot of competing flavours and weight, so pair these dishes with a full-bodied fruity wine – New World would be a good choice.
I would choose a red generally before a white to enjoy with duck. Italian reds, Pinot Noir, Argentinean Malbec and Ribera del Duero all make my shortlist, given their high acidity. Whites to consider include medium-sweet Rieslings, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris (especially against spicy flavours), or an Australian Semillon or Chardonnay.
Bethany Barossa Steinbruch Riesling 2012 has noticeable sweetness, with pineapple, ripe melon and lime - perfect for lightly-spiced dishes. €17 from O’Brien’s.
Penfolds Koonunga Hill Autumn Riesling 2014 is unashamedly medium-sweet in style, with pleasantly moderate alcohol, lime, honey and ripe peach/tropical fruits. It makes a great partner for slightly spicy dishes. €20 from specialist independents, O’Brien’s.
Verus Pinot Gris 2012 is made by Liam Cabot. It’s quite a magnificent Pinot Gris, with a generous herbal and savoury flavour, incredibly ripe (so much so it might seem medium-dry), with apricot, a viscous texture, and marvellous length. €19.99 from On the Grapevine (Dalkey), Pery Square (Limerick), Market 57 (Westport), Poppyseed (Galway).
Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 is intensely fruity, with plenty of body. Blackcurrant and blueberry flavours make it super as a match for duck with cherry or plum sauce. These fruits are accented with vanilla, dark chocolate and minty herbal notes, making it super to pair with duck and cherry sauce. €15.99 from Marks & Spencer.
Lamatum Ribera del Duero ‘Roble’ 2013 combines just the right amount of intense and ripe blackberry fruit, spice and woody notes with medium tannin and a very decent finish. It very much over-delivers at €12.99 from Molloys, McHugh’s, specialist independents.
Cusumano Benuara 2014 is a Nero d’Avola/Syrah blend which I’ve been a fan of for several years. Its super-rich intense black fruit combines with an underlying savoury and earthy note to give a long finish. €18.99, O’Brien’s.
Andeluna Altitud Malbec 2011 is a stand-out Malbec – a perfect harmony of blackberry, coffee, oak, graphite, with good structure and firm but pleasantly grippy tannin. €18 from McHughs, Sweeneys, McCabes, Wines on the Green.
Andean Vineyards Malbec 2014 is an excellent example of really good, inexpensive Malbec. It’s pure unoaked fruit, with a distinctive floral note of violets which punctuates a mixture of smoke, leather and black fruit. I spotted it recently on a pub menu, being paired with game pie. Medium in body and tannin; extremely well-crafted. €12.95 from Delaney’s, Amber Fermoy, No 21 Cork.
Callia Alta Malbec 2014 regularly wins awards. Medium-bodied, with generous pepper, sour cherry and liquorice flavours enhanced with a lick of vanilla. €12.99, from Hollands, Higgins, Swan’s, Mortons Ranelagh, McHugh’s, Molloys, Drinkstore.ie.
Vatan Arielle La Roncière Pinot Noir 2014 is a smashing French Pinot at a great price. Lots of crunchy juicy redcurrants, lip-smackingly fresh and vibrant, with a gorgeous vein of minerality running through it. A steal at €14.95, Whelehan’s Wines.
Secano Pinot Noir 2014 from Chile has attractive smoky aromas, with intense animal, leather, prune and licorice notes –a full-bodied, savoury style, with a long finish. €14.29, Marks & Spencer.