Life in the Loire after lock-down. Weekly update. 11 October 2020.

After a couple of weeks of quite rich eating and lots of wine, we had a night off the booze and a simple veggie dinner on Monday. Good for the body I tell myself (although it doesn’t feel like that if I’m honest).

Eating and drinking is such a part of our lives and a night without wine feels very strange. We take so much pleasure in planning what we’re going to eat and what we will drink alongside. It’s our routine.

We always start our evening with an aperitif. Nigel lights the fire, I prepare a few nibbles (nothing exotic just a few olives, a little bread with tapenade, a nut or two, some slices of salami maybe) and then we sit down with a glass of wine (occasionally it might be a cocktail, a beer or a glass of fizz).

I’ll find the ipad and choose something to listen to on Spotify and we’ll relax for half an hour before getting on with prepping dinner.

On booze free nights we’ll eat earlier to avoid the dreaded aperitif hour as it’s that glass of wine that we miss the most. The glass that signals the end of another day during this frankly bloody awful year.

Now onto the wines we did try this week that we’d like to share.

On Tuesday we chose a bottle of Henry Marrionnet’s Première Vendange Gamay. We’ve not caught up with this wine in a long time. Big fans of it in the past we were excited to taste his current vintage, the 2019, and we weren’t disappointed.

The 2018 and 19 reds from the Loire really are glorious. Everything that I want in a red wine. Tons of fruit and lovely concentration but still with enough acidity to keep them fresh and ‘digest’ as the French would say. If you can find this wine then do buy a bottle, you won’t regret it.

We served it alongside Greek chicken, lemon and Feta meatballs and a pea, leek and broadbean mash. Delicious!

Wednesday turned out to be a very exciting wine day. We bought a couple of bottles from the little delicatessan in Vouvray along with some cheese (we’d been told the cheese is great and it was). One was an Altesse from the Roussette de Savoie appellation.

What a great surprise. Friend and wine writer Wink Lorch first introduced us to this unusual white grape variety about 6 months ago so we were delighted to see a bottle in the deli. It was everything that we both like in a wine.

Aromatic and floral, hints of stone fruit and with lovely minerality. I wouldn’t have a cat in hell’s chance of getting it right in a blind tasting. Just delicious and wonderful value at 11 euros a bottle here in France.

Altesse is found in the Savoie region of France. Wink has written a book ‘Wines of the French Alps’ so I was able to research both the grape variety and the producer.

On of our favourites from Gerald Vallée made it’s way to the dinner table on Thursday. Vau Jaumier 2017 from St Nicolas de Bourgueil. This was the first wine we tasted of Geralds and the one that had us driving straight to the cellar door to find out more. Years later, it’s still a firm favourite and a great partner to game. We served it with pan fried duck breast marinated in herbes de Provence.

Saturday was a fridge clear out kind of dinner and bottle of luscious Chenin Blanc from South Africa. Garlicky prawns in a cream and Parmesan sauce with all the veggies in the veg drawer finely sliced and sweated in butter. A great pairing. Ken Forrester’s 2018 Chenin was rich and exotic with notes of vanilla and a lovely seam of minerality and freshness. A perfect match. Who would have thought we’d have found that bottle at the Supermarket in Vernou!

And yesterday I roasted a loin of pork in the oven. I rubbed it with ground fennel and garlic and Nigel made some white beans cooked with lemon and leeks alongside. We drank Vincent Giraudon’s Eponyme 2018 Gamay from the Cote Roannaise. Another fabulous food and wine pairing.

That rounds off our week here in Noizay. Tomorrow I travel to the UK to see my eldery parents for a week. I’ll be quarantining while I’m there and will pass my time doing some batch cooking for them.

Dad has already earmarked a 1977 port and a 1982 claret to enjoy while I’m there so life won’t be so bad after all.