Life in the Loire after lock-down. Weekly update 12th July 2020.

This week I’ve been looking at changes in climate in recent years and the impact that has had upon viticulture (particularly here in the Loire).

There are many ways of looking at climate and many measurements that are taken into account – latitude, rainfall, hours of sunshine and degree days. The changes from 1950 to 2010 show an increase in heat of around 300 degree days in the Loire.

That might not sound much on the face of it. But let me put that into perspective. A 300 degree increase over the course of the growing year gives the Loire as many degrees of heat today as the Northern Rhone had 20 years ago.

It’s a sobering thought.

I’ll be running a live Zoom tasting in a couple of weeks for Le Tasting Room Club Members which is also open to other people if they are interested in joining in.

The theme is the difference between warm and cool climate wines. What makes them different and what climate change means for the Loire going forward.

So – we had another trip out this week. This time a little further south-east to St Aignan sur Cher. What a delightful place is it. A lovely little market town bordering the river with cobbled streets, little squares and a beached area with supervised swimming during the summer months.

We took a picnic (and this time popped a half bottle of chilled Muscadet in the panier) and sat by the water before having a potter around the town enjoying the architecture. There’s a market on a Saturday morning in the centre of town and a sweet little restaurant by the bridge that is offering terrace service at the moment. A nice place for a light lunch.

On our way back we stopped off in Montrichard for a beer. We pass through quite often on our way to visit Jean-Francois Merieau’s tasting room but never have the chance to stop. This time we did.

Montrichard would be a great place to base yourself if you were visiting. It’s on the Cher with a beach and supervised swimming during the summer and the town itself is charming with several little squares dotted with restaurants and cafes. There also appear to be lots of rather nice looking food and wine shops (always a bonus for us).

Apparently I’ve been prononouncing it incorrectly too which has amused me (seeing as I’ve lived in the Loire for 14 years you’d think I have that taped). The ‘t’ is pronounced so it’s Mon-trichard NOT Mont-richard (as most would say looking at it on paper). There you go. You learn something every day. Distinguishes the locals from the foreigners.

The weather has been more sunny and settled this week so we’ve been able to eat outside most evenings and at lunchtime we’ve been chasing the shade.

I made a lovely fresh chilled tomato and bread soup with sherry vinegar, garlic and olive oil which was perfect for a hot day.

Stuffed rolled fillets of plaice was on the menu mid-week. A mixture of sourdough breadcrumbs (I keep a stash in the freezer), sundried tomato, olives, preserved lemon and loads of fresh herbs from the garden with a little softened shallot.

Roasted cherry tomatoes are delicious and so easy. Pop a couple of large handfuls into a bowl, add olive oil, salt, pepper, a clove of garlic finely chopped, some finely pared lemon rind and a bunch of fresh thyme. Put that in the oven (190°C) for about 20 minutes and then flash under the grill for a minute or two until slightly charred on the top.

Serve them as a side dish with fish or chicken or on their own on a bed of chilled Greek yoghurt and crusty bread or flatbreads. Great for a light veggie lunch.

Last night we enjoyed slow roasted duck legs. I browned them first in a pan before adding stock, 6 cloves of unpeeled garlic and a big bunch of fresh thyme from the garden. Two and half hours later, simmered gently in the oven on a very low heat they were meltingly tender and the stock had reduced to give a delicious garlicky syrup. Some sautéed potatoes with crispy sage leaves thrown in at the last minute and a few fresh haricots and that made a lovely Sunday dinner in the garden.

On the wine front this week we’ve enjoyed some slightly older Loire wines that have really illustrated how wonderful they are with a bit of time.

Chateau de Pintray’s Demoiselle Montlouis sur Loire demi-sec 2009 was tasting just fabulous. Ripe and fruity, a little tropical, with notes of quinces and wonderful acidity 10 years on.

Mathieu Vallée’s Chateau Yvonne 2010 was rich and dark and soft with spice and a tinge of vanilla. Fresh as a daisy on the palate. Years ahead of it.

And slightly younger but no less delicious was Arnaud Lambert’s Clos de L’Etoile 2014, another fresh vintage with beautiful minerality and acidity from beginning to end. Cabernet Franc at its finest.

A shout out too for Chateau de Fesles’ Chenin Sec 2016. This is a really impressive, polished Chenin half aged in oak and half in tank. Superbly clean and super appealing to anyone who likes a touch of oak without it dominating the wine. It was wonderful with the chilled tomato and bread soup.

In other news, Skippy the wallaby has been spotted again bouncing around the vineyards of Noizay but is still on the run and the baby swallows are still thriving.

Life in the Loire continues…