Grenache, aka Garnacha, is a grape variety that speaks to me regardless of where it comes from in the world. Grenache wines range from lighter to full-bodied and elegant to robust, with enormous levels of complexity. I recently wrote about one from southern Oregon and today share one from southern France – Grenache Montcalmès.
This 2017 from organic, smaller production producer Domaine de Montcalmès located in the Languedoc Terrasses du Larzac AOP gets labeled Vin de France because it is 100% Grenache. The AOP/AOC regulations require a wine to be from at least three grapes including two main varieties (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsaut, and Carignan). If interested, see below for more details* as it is a bit more complicated.
This wine is a Grenache cuvée, meaning a mix of Grenache from vines planted on different parcels from the Montcalmès estate.
We tasted it blind last night (hence the sock) with our friend Gonzague who knows I love Grenache!
It poured a paler side of ruby-garnet. Medium-intensity plum, red and dark cherry, thyme, old leather and barnyard were on the first nose. The later two are considered hints of brett which don’t bother me a bit. After it sat a while, perfumy floral, spice and more popped up: lavender, violet, cinnamon, tobacco, and chocolate. My tasting partners thought it slightly reductive, but I did not. (Click here for information on reduction in wine.)
The vibrant berries and superb acidity (medium(+)) make this wine juicy bright on the palate – structured yet with an impressive freshness. Along with that acidity, medium dusty-soft tannins, a medium body and medium alcohol, this is a candidate for a light chill on a warm summer evening.
Quite the elegant sip after two hours!
The Wine Pairing
After enjoying this dish more than twice on our recent Andalusia trip (Sevilla and Jerez), I decided to make it.
Sherry braised pork cheeks with onions and red and yellow peppers served over chunky herbed sweet potatoes were finished with a sprinkling of Fava beans and the silky smooth braising sauce. Unbelievable deliciousness!
The pairing worked because the sweet and savory components in the dish and wine played together exceptionally well.
- Dish sweet items: sherry, sweet potatoes, caramelized onions and peppers
- Dish savory items: pork, spices, garlic
- Wine sweet components: fruit, berries
- Wine savory components: thyme, dried tobacco, leather, barnyard, dusty tannins
- Chocolate straddles the two.
You can find the Domaines de Monacalmès Terraces du Larzac AOC wine in the US, UK and other places. I don’t believe this Grenache is available outside the EU, however the Montcalmès Terraces du Larzac would also pair nicely with this dish.
Sherry Braised Pork Cheeks
- 1/3 cup avocado oil
- 2 medium onions sliced into thinner strips
- 1 small red bell pepper sliced into thinner stips
- 1 small yellow or orange bell pepper sliced into thinner strips
- 600 grams pork cheeks excess fat removed, larger pieces cut in half
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp flour (8-10 grams)
- 2 large garlic cloves minced
- 1 heaping tsp ground cumin (about 5 grams)
- 1 heaping tsp sweet smoked paprika (about 5 grams)
- 1 small carrot sliced into medallions
- ¾ cup medium-dry or dry sherry (150 ml)
- 1½ cups beef stock (about 300 ml)
- handful flat-leaf parsley chopped
- handful Fava beans, boiled (see notes)
- Heat 1 – 2 tbsps oil in a large pan over medium, then add onions and peppers. Cook gently 10 – 15 minutes until softened and onions lightly browned. I put a lid on the pan between stirring. If they start sticking, add just a little water to get up the pieces stuck to the pan, then turn the heat down a bit. Remove when done, set aside.
- Season the cheeks with salt and pepper, then sprinkle with flour and toss to coat. Add a little more oil to the pan and turn heat to medium-high. Brown the cheeks all over in batches, being careful to not crowd them. Set aside when done.
- Turn heat down to medium; return all pork to pan and add the garlic, cumin, paprika and carrots; cook 1 minute, then pour in sherry. Use spoon to scrape the bottom of the pan and mix in all the flavors.
- Pour in the stock then bring to a simmer. Simmer gently 2 hours or until cheeks are tender.
- About 15 minutes before serving, stir in onions and peppers to warm.
- Sprinkle with parsley leaves and Fava beans. Serve with chunky mashed sweet potatoes, mashed potato, or your favorite bread for sopping up the sauce.
*Terrasses du Larzac AOC/AOP grape varieties
Wines are made by blending grapes, musts or wines from at least 3 grape varieties
including 2 main grape varieties.
The proportion of main grape varieties is greater than or equal to 75% of the blend, and no single grape variety may represent more than 70% of the blend, with Carignan limited to a maximum of 50%.
The proportion of Cinsault is limited to 25%.
The proportion of accessory grape varieties (Cinsaut, Counoise, Lledoner Pelut, Morrastel, and Terret Noir), with the exception of Cinsaut, is less than or equal to 10% of the blend.
Information source: Cahiers des Charges
Domaine de Montcalmès website