Life in the Loire after lock-down. Weekly update 28th June.

The week started badly. The car broke down.

Well, it didn’t break down exactly. As I turned on the engine after coming out of the supermarket on Monday afternoon, everything started beeping at me and a message came up on the dashboard saying ‘attention, stop, don’t drive the car or you may damage the engine’.

I called the Opal garage (just 2 kms from where I was) and asked if it was safe to drive it to them. A very firm ‘no’ came down the line. I must call out the emergency services. And so I did.

50 minutes later a very nice man arrived and loaded us up, drove to the garage and waved goodbye.

Could I borrow a car to get home I asked? No, no cars available. Oh dear what now? So I called a friend who very kindly came to collect me and dropped me off home.

Needless to say a large gin and tonic was required to calm my nerves after the trauma.

The next couple of days saw us out and about on our bikes for any errands that needed doing as we waited for news from the garage crossing our fingers it wasn’t too serious.

We picked it up on Thursday morning. An oil change and a computer reset to ensure the anti pollution mechanism kicked in. 400 euros thank you very much.

It could have been worse I guess. Not great timing but…

Dinners this week have been light and spicy. Monday night’s egg curry (a recipe pinched from John and Sheila) really hit the spot for me.

Served with cucumber raita, Sheila’s home made mango chutney and loads of fresh mint scattered on top – a winner.

On Tuesday I made a lemon polenta cake that kept us going all week. Equal quantities of ground almonds and butter with eggs, polenta and the juice and rind of 2 lemons. That made a nice change although it could have fed an army so I’ve been donating to anyone that set foot over the threshold.

Tuesday’s dinner was pea and mint risotto made using some wonderful smoked chicken stock that I had in the fridge. A few buttery garlic prawns on top.

Wednesday the temperature shot up to 36°C so eating outside was impossible during the day. On days like that we shut the shutters, keep the doors firmly closed and try to stay cool. I normally enjoy a vineyard walk on a Wednesday evening but this week, it was just too hot.

As the sun faded it cooled down enough to eat dinner in the garden under the shade of the tilleuil tree. Crispy chicken thighs with new potatoes fried in oil with rosemary, garlic and thyme and roasted cauliflower with a tahini and pine nut sauce and crispy fried onions.

I’m sorry to report that Pesto was successful in her baby swallow mission. Despite out best efforts to keep her away she caught one of them off guard and it was gone in a whisker as ‘the cleaner’ Bigi moved in quickly to see it off.

Looking at her angelic face you’d never believe she could be such a killer. Behind that sweet appearance is one determined cat.

Inspired by the recent Zoom tastings and thinking about how I can offer value to those who pay to be members of the Tasting Room Club I’ve decided to incorporate 4 on-line tastings at points that puncuate the vineyard year here in the Loire. A live update on what’s going on in the vineyards together with a tasting of a particular appellation and news from growers. I’m excited to include that and can’t wait for the first one – in the diary for the 25th July.

A couple of new wines on the table this week.

Le Grolleau 2019 from Chateu de Breuil in Anjou made the perfect partner for the griddled chicken on Wednesday. Chateau de Breuil is an organic estate that we used to work with when we lived over that way and David Wigan (the Sales Director) was over in Touraine this week so we took the chance to have a couple of cases delivered.

A wonderful summer red for you to look our for – Le Grolleau IGP from Chateau de Breuil

Grolleau is the name of the grape variety. It’s planted widely in Anjou but is mostly used to make the famous Rosé d’Anjou. As a grape it’s well suited to making rosé. It has big juicy berries and light fruity flavours.

A red wine from Grolleau is less common but you do see them from time to time. We love them so do watch out for them. This one is an IGP wine (the country wine category) rather than an appellation wine. That’s because there is no appellation in Anjou that permits a red wine to be made from Grolleau.

The 2019 vintage is richer and fuller than the previous vintage, a reflection of the really hot conditions we experienced last year when the temperatures shot up to over 40°C. Light and fruity with a distincitive peppery note it’s a perfect summer red that’s an excellent match for chargrilled flavours.

You know by now that Nigel and I are huge fans of lighter style reds, particularly when the weather is hot.

Our second new wine this week was the Gamy 2019 from Chateau de Montdomaine. I have to admit to not being a massive Gamay fan in the past but I’ve really enjoyed them recently (styles change, maybe I’ve changed?).

Rich and fruity Gamay 2019 from Chateau de Montdomaine

It has lovely currenty fruit on the nose, really ripe and soft. A little bit of tannin but not much, good weight on the palate. Another fabulous summer wine. Chill it down a little if the weather is really hot, serve it with salads, pasta (as we did).

Enjoy a glass on it its own. A porch pounder I think you might call it in the US. Easy to drink and moreish. And at 6 euros a bottle cellar door what are you waiting for? You can order it online on the Montdomaine website. Luckily for us it’s just down the road!

And so to the weekend. In the morning I enjoyed a lovely vineyard walk before it became too hot and then Rosie came over. The first time we’ve seen her since the lock-down in March. We had lots to talk about and I’m afraid the social distancing was briefly relaxed as we all had a hug.

There was much eating, supping and cooking. I showed her how I make my sourdough (I’m sure she was desperate to see lol), and sent her back home to Angers with a loaf. We sat up until late catching up. We popped round to see Louisa for an aperitif on Saturday night and picked up some wine. Rosie is planning a very much delayed birthday party next weekend . Some of that easy drinking Gamay will be on the table!

Hoping you are all keeping well and safe. Until next week.

Cheers from the Loire!