What’s the deal with…Cold Duck?


The second instalment of, “why do sommeliers think this is so funny?” is…

Andre Cold Duck! 

This one took some real searching to find. The illusive bottle was finally unearthed at the Smart and Final off of the Central Freeway in San Francisco for under 4 dollars. Boy was I excited. I was anticipating something like a sparkling Shiraz when I was told it was a red wine with bubbles. Never in my wildest dreams would I have anticipated what came to be a cross between grape Fanta, Cranberry Juice Cocktail, and one of those “Champagnes” that you need to swallow Advil with in order to circumvent the inevitable immediate headache. The syrupy sweet elixir wasn’t even worth a second glass.

But what is Cold Duck? The dredges of spit buckets with a heavy dossage?

Here are some snippets from Wikipedia: Cold Duck is the name of a sparkling wine made in the United States that was at one stage the best-selling “champagne” in America.The wine was invented by Harold Borgman, the owner of Pontchartrain Wine Cellars in Detroit, in 1937. The recipe was based on a traditional German custom of mixing all the dregs of unfinished wine bottles with champagne.Baskin-Robbins had an ice cream called Cold Duck Ice in the 1970s. The cultural trivia section explains almost all you ever need to know about Cold Duck’s place in society. Meanwhile…

This mixture was called kalte ende (“cold end”); over the years, ende transliterated to ente (“duck”). The wines used to make cold duck are often of inferior quality. The resulting potation is quite sweet with few other distinguishable characteristics.–Copyright (c) 1995 by Barron’s Educational Series, from The New Food Lover’s Companion, Second Edition, by Sharon Tyler Herbst

In doing research for this article I came across other obscure wines that may warrent some type of further investigation. Apparently I missed a lot in wine in the years prior to 1980 such as: Ripple (?) Bali Hai (?) Thunderbird (?) Matues (?) Spanada (?)

Until those treasures are found Retsina is next on the list. I leave you with my favorite thing about Cold Duck:

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64 Responses to “What’s the deal with…Cold Duck?”

  1. My Grandfather was H.H Borgman
    The wine is best when its made from scratch, not bottled bought. When my grandfather was in France during WW1, he experimented with left over bottles of champagne, the so called dreges of wine. When he returned to Detroit, he worked for awhile at Peoples State Bank where his Father was Vice President. In the mid thirties he opened up a restaurant styled after French Bistro;s. It was then he concocted the wine he so sought from 20 years prior. Cold Duck was served from the bowl and a new batch was made every day for his customers. It was served exclusively at the Pontchartrain Wine Cellars for 50 years

  2. spinNah Says:

    yeah F the guy who wrote this, Cold Duck is my fav drink ever!


  4. Tom Petzold Says:

    I worked at the Pontchartrain Wine Cellars for a few years in the 1970′s, where I served Cold Duck as their flagship apperatif. We served 1 part Hearty Burgundy with 2 parts NY champagne. Great restaurant, great owners with a great drink before a meal. tmp

    • Hi, do you remember any of the items on the menu. My favorite as the frog legs, potatoes, and peas. I forgot the name of the potatoes. Do you remember? I love this restaurant.

    • …thank you – that’s what I’ve been looking for. It’s my favorite New Year Eve’s drink, and I have wanted to mix it myself but wasn’t sure of how much of each.

  5. The author of this article sounds like a snob who made up his mind he didn’t like this drink before he even tasted it.

  6. Well, we’re going to give this “fine” bottle a try with eggs benedict and asparagus later this PM.

    Will post my thoughts !

  7. Ok.

    Reminds me of Faygo Grape with Old English 800. ( The Detroit Monkey )

    Sparkling grape Md 20/20 maybe.

    Meh, not horrible, but not worth buying again.

  8. Born & raised in the Detroit ‘burbs “downriver” through the 60′s & 70′s. My Mom turned us on to Cold Duck during the Holidays as we came of age. We didn’t know where she came up with it but we loved it. I can’t imagine a Thanksgiving or Christmas without it!! I’ll be getting some this week but this site has me thinking about making my own, maybe with some Lambrusco and some cheap champagne. I’m Irish but I’ll try.


  9. Best to take the gentleman who worked at the Pontchartrain Wine Cellars advice and make your own. Yummy opener for a meal. It does pack a punch after a couple though. Good Luck and Enjoy!


    I agree w/the second response. (SpinNah)

  11. This “Matues” you seek to find is “Mateus”, essentially a rosé vinho verde with more bubbles. Not bad at all for the price, although Lancers White is better still. If you’re on a tight budget, pair it as though it’s a vinho verde or a Spanish verdejo.

    Lighten up a bit. Cold Duck may not make the cut as serious wine, but it’s an alright “party drink”, very fruit forward and without any serious flaws; the André brand tastes quite a bit like catawba or even concord grapes; we’re not used to tasting American grapes in wine and that alone leads many to knock this product as being too much like grape jam. Far from “syrupy”, it’s less sweet than 7-up.

  12. Andre Cold Duck is a great salute to the 70′s, as well as the others you mentioned. Don’t forget the Riunite on ice…that’s nice, or Canei. No party was complete without at least one of these fanciful adult beverages.

  13. Just scored a bottle at my local Harris Teeter. 5 bucks. Was terrified it didn’t exist anymore….I’m 41 and my parents loved the stuff in the 70′s. I bought it for a trip down memory lane….along with a bottle of Clicquot for my real new years toast.

  14. FrenchDuck Says:

    Sounds like the author is snooty and expecting some kind of Red Dom Perignon. Sorry, its not meant to be. Its just a “casual drinking” holiday semi-sweet sparkling wine.

  15. Cold Duck is delicious served over ice with a few fresh berries or cut fruit in a carafe. A great summer treat that compares with sangria!

  16. I have an unopened bottle of Martinique New York COLD DUCK Produced & Bottled by CHATEAU DU MARCHIS CO., New York . N.Y. would like some info about it.

  17. [...] Fredo Wang, investing his exit ramp profits in smokes and fancy hooch [...]

  18. Flirting Body Language…

    [...]What’s the deal with…Cold Duck? « Wine Chef[...]…

  19. Mateus Rose, not Matues. Staple of early 80s, late summer afternoon drinking and you could put candles in the stylish bottles afterwards.

  20. wine bottle sizes…

    [...]What’s the deal with…Cold Duck? « Wine Chef[...]…

  21. Would like to have you as a guest on the radio regarding this piece on Cold Duck.


    Paul Stern
    What’s Cooking Radio Show
    Monday thru Friday – 8 AM to 9 AM Pacific Time

  22. [...] Duck - One writer calls it “a cross between grape Fanta, Cranberry Juice Cocktail, and one of those [...]

  23. I have got to say I quite like it. It budget friendly and for me not a big hangover affect. I would admit drinking to much of this for me at a time makes me a little buzzed faster than other beverages but still nothing to much I can’t handle. I enjoy things for what they are, if your a wine enthusiast than you probably won’t like it. If your a regular person who isn’t to uppity about what you drink give it a try you may or may not like it but at least try it!

    • I like your little comment “I enjoy things for what they are”, its a very fresh outlook on life in general :)

  24. Absolutely LOVE Cold Duck. If it makes the wine snobs feel better, don’t consider it a true wine, and just another beverage. I love concord grapes that are fresh off the vine. The flavor is wonderful. Cold duck is like sparkling concord grape with a bite. I have been looking for months and months, and it has become really hard to find. It saddens me, because I love this stuff. I guess this makes me a CHEAP date, but so be it!

  25. I’ve had Thunderbird wine. I tell people that, to achieve an authentic replica, you can take an empty bottle to a petrol (gas?) station and yell “fill ‘er up!”.

  26. Rex Requiem Says:

    The Andre Cold Duck varies from bottle to bottle, been drinking it for years. I’ve tried MANY wines with bubbles… this is my favorite! Judge me if you need to… I’ll just kick back here and enjoy a glass! Local stores have been gracious to order it for me, bet they will for you!

  27. Scott Thomas Says:

    Indeed Cold Duck for the holidays. A Detroit favorite. Had some on hand along with other champagne for New Years. I remember it being around in the 60′s and 70′s during the holidays with my family.

  28. Leonard Thomas Says:

    My wife and I became acquainted with Cold Duck in the mid-1970′s. A local restaurant known as The Caboose, in Central Florida, served it on tap. Another of their specialties was tater tots. Sometimes after shopping, we would stop in just for a snack of tater tots and Cold Duck on tap. This later became a New Year’s eve ritual. Each December 31, just before midnight, I would prepare a plate of tater tots and we would crack open a bottle of the Cold Duck bubbly. We would toast in the New Year with a glass of the long-enjoyed beverage while we ate our taters. It always brought back fond memories of the days of dining at The Caboose.

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  31. shart265 Says:

    I remember commercials for Cold Duck that ran on TV in the 70s. The voice-over made me think it was something high class. I’ve yet to try the stuff to know whether my perception is correct.

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  33. During the early 80′s, moms around here helped their young adults cross over to adulthood by providing bowls of cold duck punch prior to going to the prom. In a large punch bowl, combine a bottle of cold duck with a liter of ginger ale or 7-Up. Add several scoops of rainbow sherbert and float some orange slices on top. Boy did we feel like grown-ups drinking that stuff!!!

  34. Mamaw's fave... Says:

    Drinking Cold Duck is a family tradition for me. It was my great grandmother’s favorite drink, and so we tend to drink it in her honor every time we’re together. I do like a good, dry red and so understand that Cold Duck may not be the finest glass of sparkling wine every created. But it is delicious in its own right and I’m sure I’ll find myself going back to it as long it remains in the shelves of my local state store (from PA). Side note on Cold Duck – It’s best served over an abundance of crushed ice, like a fountain soda. It’s not classy, but it really boosts the experience :) Cheers!

  35. Sorry about your life ! Ridin’ screamin’ night hog, a big titted blond hangin on the back an bali hai, or thunderbird or ripple an danci at a honky tonk bar is god’s gift to an american son! Your sure you american? Still listening to th’ tune of fishtail pipes ! BIG O

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  50. You will not find Ripple or some of the other Pop wines from the Hippie and Sly and the Family Stones Days. They aren’t made any longer and haven’t been for sometime.
    Some of the lesser French Cellars bottle a “Cold Duck” these days to be served with Cold Fowl or “Cold Duck” and a salad and french bread in the warmer weather. It is blended with Champagne and Sparkling Burgundy. I am quite fond of it. Worth a try. Low cost !

  51. I remember this is what the grownups drank in the 1970s when they wanted to be fancy — it would be served to guests on Christmas Eve, for instance. Remember, this is when Mateus and Lancers ruled the American wine world, and it was all sweet and quite icky by today’s standards. I remember how grapey it tasted, but with bubbles!

  52. James Watson Says:

    I hope you meant ‘elusive’ bottle and not “illusive” bottle…

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