Cabernet Sauvignon wine and food pairing – Pan-fried duck

What goes well with Cabernet Sauvignon?

Cabernet Sauvignon is the most widely planted wine grape in the world.

You’ll find Cabernet Sauvignon in every supermarket, restaurant wine menu and at most wine tasting events. So learning what goes well with Cabernet Sauvignon when food and wine pairing will be very rewarding.

Characteristics of Cabernet Sauvignon wines:

  • High tannins which add texture, bitterness and astringency
  • Noticeable acidity which adds tartness and vibrancy
  • Ageing potential for several decades
  • Aroma profile of blackcurrant, cedar and mint in cooler climates, black cherry and black olive in moderate climates and ‘jammy’ aromas in hot climates
  • The complex texture of Cabernet Sauvignon is described as full-bodied

The question of what goes well with Cabernet Sauvignon depends on its age, the time spent in oak barrels and the wine terroir.

The younger the wine is the greater its acidity – the older it is, the more malolactic fermentation breaks down tart-tasting malic acid into milky and softer lactic acid. The aroma profile changes depending on the climate as seen above but also the soil where it’s grown. Australian Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon is known for eucalyptus and menthol notes, for example.

UMAMU Estate 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon from Margaret River in Western Australia has intense cassis aromas due to the cooler climate.

But how to make a winning Cabernet Sauvignon wine & food pairing?

Cabernet Sauvignon wine and food pairing

There are three methods to pair wine with food:

  • Pair body and texture
  • Pair beneficial flavours
  • Pair aromatic compounds

We’ve had Cordon Bleu trained create a perfect pairing for UMAMU Estate 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon. Let’s run through each of the three methods.

Pair body and texture

Roasted, stewed or grilled beef is the traditional meal to pair with Cabernet Sauvignon wines. Roast beef is a full-body dish that’s rich in fats, protein and smoky flavours. A white wine would be too light-bodied and thin as a wine pair – but Cabernet Sauvignon is complex and rich enough for the job.

UMAMU Estate Cabernet Sauvignon has a medium-bodied palate with refined tannins, notes of cassis and cedar and a velvety finish. It spent 18 months in French oak and is characteristically smooth as an UMAMU Estate vintage.

This makes it a great match for a medium-bodied dish of pan-fried duck breast.

Pair beneficial flavours

Fat and proteins absorb tannins, which is why rich meat-based dishes are the typical food pairing for Cabernet Sauvignon wines. The taste would be too bitter otherwise.

But the lighter fat in pan-fried duck is enough to soak up the superfine tannins of UMAMU Estate Cabernet Sauvignon.

One of the main wine pairing rules dictates that the wine should always be sweeter than the food. The sweetness of the marmalade and balsamic glaze is reduced by the bitterness in the orange marmalade and the salt in the seasoning.

This keeps the Cabernet Sauvignon sweeter than the food and allows fruity flavours of blackcurrant, mulberry and plum to come to the front.

Acidity helps to stimulate the appetite and acts as a palate cleanser in a rich meal. Another wine pairing rule dictates that the wine should always be more acidic than the food – the sweetness of the marmalade reduces the acidity of the balsamic vinegar, and allows the acidity of the Cabernet Sauvignon to play its important role in this food & wine pairing.

Pair aromatic compounds

Ethyl butyrate is a dominant aroma molecule in Cabernet Sauvignon which provides the sweet, fruity and juicy aroma associated with plums and cherries. It’s also a dominant aroma found in oranges – commonly added as an artificial flavouring to make orange juice taste ‘fruity’ – and sets up an aromatic synergy between the marmalade and the wine.

Eucalyptol is one of the main aromas in cassis or blackcurrant, giving a herbal and camphreous scent. The aroma is present in UMAMU Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and is also a dominant aroma in balsamic vinegar.

Recipe with thanks to LK Wong.

P.S. – You can read our complete guide to understanding food & wine pairing here.

Duck breast with marmalade and balsamic glaze


  • 4 duck breasts skin on
  • 1/2 cup marmalade
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • spice rub like ras el hanout (optional)


  1. Dry duck breasts with a paper towel. Score the duck skin lightly in a criss cross pattern to render duck fat when cooking. Place uncovered on a plate with skin side up in the fridge overnight to dry out the skin.
  2. Take duck breast out of fridge an hour before cooking to get it to room temperature. Rub a generous amount of salt on the duck skin and pepper including any spices if using.
  3. Place duck breasts skin side down on a cold non stick fry pan. Cook on medium heat for approximately 15 minutes. When the skin is brown and crispy turn the breasts over and cook for another 2 minutes. Turn breasts skin side up again. Remove frypan from heat.
  4. Mix marmalade and balsamic vinegar, generously brush on cooked duck breasts and let them rest loosely covered in foil for 15 minutes.
  5. Slice duck breasts and plate, spoon over glaze and duck juices.

P.S. You can buy UMAMU Estate 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon here.