Life in the Loire after lock-down. Weekly update. 27 September 2020.

While the action here in Vouvray has transferred from the vineyard to the cellar, the secateurs have been snipping away in the red wine appellations of Chinon, St Nicolas de Bourgueil, Saumur Champigny and Anjou.

Growers have been keen to get the black grapes in as we’ve had quite a bit of rain in the past few days but on the whole the quality is looking good and there is little evidence of disease.

Beautiful ripe Cab Franc at Domaine Leduc Frouin

All in all, it looks like the wines from this extraordinary year will be rich and concentrated. It reminds me a little of 2011 when we had a very dry season and then the weather broke. Wines were wonderfully rich and fruity with soft tannins and lovely concentration.

These kind of vintages are generally popular with Loire wine drinkers although the growers themselves tend to prefer years with a little more tension and acidity in the wines.

We drove over to Chaumont on Wednesday for a walk along the river late afternoon. Our timing was immaculate. We pottered around the village and admired the architecture of the old houses then dropped down to the riverside path and wended our way along the waterside watching the sheep grazing and wooden boats bobbing.

Chaumont has a lovely chateau and fabulous gardens (that we have yet to discover). The centre was quiet and few people were around. A stark contrast to any ‘normal’ year which would have the little village humming with tourists in September. There are several little bars and restaurants and you can take a boat trip along the river.

These kind of villages need tourists to survive. I do hope things get back to some sense of normality next year – for us and for anyone around here that works in the tourism industry.

As we returned to the car, the heavens opened. From glorious sunshine to driving rain in just a moment. We drove back home, windscreen wipers on maximum. And then half an hour later – the skies cleared. Calm once again.

On Friday, Louisa from Montdomaine came over for lunch. It seems a while since we caught up (well not that long actually, it was the girl’s harvesting day a week or so ago). Fred has brought in the last of his grapes this week. The Cabernet Franc and Malbec are now all in and he’s busy with cellar work. His Gamay primeur has finished its fermentation and he’s very happy with the result. Watch this space, the first wines in our glasses from 2020 aren’t far off.

Avocado pea and beetroot salad, seeded schnitzels and roasted fennel and chilli tomatoes with a lovely fresh bottle of Spring Vouvray 2019 from Tania & Vincent Carême

To finish off the week we drove up to Versailles to see Rosie and Thiphaine in their new flat. It was an easy journey. Further than we’ve travelled in months. The last time I was in Versailles I was 16 years old and on a visit to see my aunt who was living in Paris at the time.

What a lovely place Versailles is. So close to Paris but with a much smaller, cosier feel. Their little flat is very close to the centre. Just a 5 minute walk to the amazing covered market that had me salivating in an instant. Lebanese, Portugese and Italian delis jostle alongside fishmongers, butchers, cheese suppliers and cavistes. Dried fruits and herbs, salt cod and olives. And a market outside in the square too, three time a week. Wow! It’s a good job we don’t live there. Foodie heaven.

We were happy to have the chance to catch up. With the situation changing daily and our department of Indre et Loire classed as a ‘red zone’, we can expect tougher more restrictive measures upon travelling at any moment.

As autumn seems to be suddenly upon us, I had to urge to make soup this week. Squash and smoky lardon with thyme and guinea fowl stock made a rather delicious lunch on Wednesday. Greek chicken, lemon and Feta meatballs with a lemon caper sauce and broad bean and avocado mash was on the menu on Thursday and on Friday night a butterbean mash served with Muhamarra (roasted red peppers with garlic, sherry vinegar and smoked paprika) and Toulouse sausages.

Rosie cooked a delicious version of shepherd’s pie on Saturday night that I shall definitely try myself. Made with duck confit and with a sweet potato mash on top it was really tasty. Just a simple dressed salad alongside and it made a really yummy, original dinner. Confit is so comforting isn’t it?

On the wine front we’ve enjoyed Tania & Vincent Carême’s Spring Vouvray 2019, La Table Rouge Chenin & Gamay and Limonte from Italy. The Greek meatballs were tricky to match as the sauce was exceedingly lemony. We drank a red but a really citric, lemony Saumur Chenin would probably have been a better match. Where was Arnaud Lambert when you needed him? And in Versailles we toasted Rosie and Thiphaine with a glass of Touraine Rosé fizz from Chateau de Montdomaine.

Keep safe and well. Cheers from Noizay.