Elegant Side of Grenache – Montcalmès + Sherry Braised Pork Cheeks

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!

Blind tasting is insanely difficult. Knowing Gonzague only brings French wines helped me nail the variety and Languedoc! You can see the paler color of the wine here. Fantastic pairing with Sherry braised pork cheeks!

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

Course: Main Course


  • 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)
  • 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.


I caramelized the onions and peppers separately, set them aside, then mixed them into the pot about 15 mins before serving.
If you want a silky smooth sauce: ladle a good amount of the sauce off (I took about 1 1/2 cups) and put through a fine-mesh strainer. Put sauce in a sauce pan over medium-low heat. Mix about 2 teaspoons arrowroot or cornstarch with a tiny bit of cold water, then stir into the sauce. Continue stirring as the sauce thickens a bit. You may have to turn heat to medium. Should take a few minutes. Squeeze in juice from 1/4 small lemon. Taste and adjust salt to your liking.
Both Italian (flat-leaf) parsley and Fava beans are a nice garnish. If you don’t have fresh Fava beans, use toasted almond slices.
I like avocado oil for browning the meat as it’s a high-heat oil.
Recipe adapted from BBC GoodFood.

*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

4 thoughts on “Elegant Side of Grenache – Montcalmès + Sherry Braised Pork Cheeks

  1. Steven

    Excellent post, Lynn. I, too, love Grenache I all its incarnations. I have yet to try Montcalmés, but will seek it out. The sherry braised cheeks sound and look delicious!

    1. Lynn Post author

      Thanks Steven! Although I’ve enjoyed Montcalmés Terrasses du Larzac often (it’s a super benchmark for the AOC) this was a first taste of his Grenache which is very small production. How about a trip to the Languedoc?!?

  2. robincgc

    This dish looks and sounds amazing. I love the blind-tasting “sock!” I have grown to love wines from the Languedoc, especially smaller producers, although I don’t get to enjoy them nearly as often as you do!

    1. Lynn Post author

      You caught ‘the sock’! The funny thing is Gonzague knows where I keep it in the kitchen so comes right in and puts it on his brought bottle. Cheers to small producers from Languedoc and pork cheeks😆!


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