Life in the Loire after lock-down. Weekly update 2nd August 2020.

It’s been a hot week in the Loire with us chasing the shade during the day and eating inside until the sun goes down.

I kicked off the week with an early morning walk with a couple of girlfriends. 10km around the vineyards of Montlouis sur Loire including a good few kilometres through the forest that had us grateful for the dappled shade and leafy ferns.

10km was a little further than we’d anticipated. We took a wrong turn in the woods but the sun guided us out and we were happy to have the diversion. A good start to the week.

Arriving back home I checked email as usual and had the shock of my life. An enquiry! Yes, the first one to ping in my inbox since before the lockdown. Not another cancellation. A couple wanting to do a day with us.

“Yes”, I said. “Wonderful! Wednesday would be great. See you then!”

Suddenly we had a lot to do! Clean the car, sort the house, shop for lunch, organise the tasting room. Hooray!

Tuesday saw the clouds come in and it looked like we were in for a dreary day. But no – after lunch the clouds disappeared and the hot sun came out again, just in time for an apero dinatoire on the Loire.

What a wonderful evening that was. A friend had organised a private boat trip. A small group of us climbed aboard at 7.30pm and we meandered up and down the river as the sun set and night fell. The children fished from the side and the adults indulged in a glass or two of wine. The air was warm and we just enjoyed the solitude, the calm of the river. As we looked up at the moon we felt grateful to be living in such a beautiful place.

Up bright and early on Wednesday. Work calling.

A lovely young couple from London. She from the US originally and he a Londoner, her parents had planned the trip to Amboise but unfortunately were unable to join them. We drove up to Tania and Vincent Careme’s top parcel Le Clos and talked about grape growing before walking down to the tasting room to taste the wines.

A little wine education to follow at our tasting room with lots of pictures, a summery lunch of roasted cod with cherry tomatoes and rosemary, a selection of cheeses and an apricot clafoutis and suddenly, the day was over.

They were lovely company and we were delighted to be back at work again exchanging stories and experiences, talking food and wine.

On Friday our old friends Ali and Jos and their daughter came over for the night. They’ve lived in Belgium for the past three years and were on their way to meet up with other family members for a holiday on the French coast.

It was excrutiatingly hot all day and we were unable to go outside for dinner until after 10pm when it was just about bearable. There was endless shuffling of chairs in the salon trying to avoid the sun, bearing down upon us through the windows that look out over the garden.

We started with stuffed tomatoes accompanied by a little rocket salad and a few parmesan shavings before moving onto a spicy main course. A Kenyan chicken and coconut curry and diegi bulgogi (hot and spicy pork fillet served in lettuce leaves with rice, quick pickled onions and an even spicier condiment called ssamjang).

Tomatoes skinned and stuffed with tons of garden herbs and served with a little rocket salad and some shavings of Parmesan. A light summer starter.

Cheese to follow of course, and finally, an apricot tarte.

Jos is very keen on his wines and we always try to share a few unusual bottles when we get together. To start with we had a glass of Francois Pinon’s 1989 moelleux Chenin Blanc Vouvray which was still tasting delightfully fresh and made the perfect apero. Just the right balance of sweetness with ac idity.

With the tomatoes we enjoyed a glass of Coralie and Damien Delechenau’s Les Epinays 2017. Amazingly bright acidity on this wine. Mouthwatering Chenin. It’s a bit young but wonderful nonetheless.

Jos brought a Californian Zinfandel from Lodi which was delicious with the spicy main course. The 15.5% alcohol didn’t seem too evident on the palate. Just as well we were drinking lots of water mind you! Full of rich soft ripe plums, it’s an age since I tasted a old vine Zin.

Last but not least, with the cheese we opened a bottle of Limonte Grignolino d’Asti from Braida. Another 2017, a fresh style with lovely balance and cherry fruit.

We sat in the garden until late in the hot summer air.

Heads were clear on Saturday morning so we popped around to see Louisa at Montdomaine for a quick tour and tasting. Ali and Jos were kind enough to donate an evening to Louisa and I when we had our ‘dry run’ for the Summer Tasting Case Zoom tastings. Thanks to them we managed to get our heads around the technology that made everything run smoothly on the night.

A walk up into the vineyards in the morning sunshine, a peek in the caves, a look at the labelling machine, a look at the work being done to prepare for this year’s harvest and finally a wine tasting in the chateau.

A few bottles in the boot and we drove over the river to a little wine bar called Volupia in Chargé where we sat by the river and enjoyed a bottle of wine and some charcuterie and cheese plates with lots of crusty bread.

On the table this week we’ve had crispy chicken thighs with new potatoes and a tarragon cream sauce and some wonderful roasted home grown tomatoes cooked with fennel seeds and chilli flakes and served on a bed of Greek yoghurt and Feta cheese. My sourdough is still making a regular appearance. Toasted, rubbed with garlic, drizzled with olive oil and a few sea salt flakes sprinkled over, it makes a great addition to a light lunch or supper.

Another discovery this week has been Vincent Carême’s Yellow Vermouth.

I fib if I say it’s the first time we’ve tasted it but it’s the first time we’ve tasted it from its final bottle complete with label.

If you’re a vermouth fan you’re going to love it. Just a few hundred bottles made. It’s truly delicious and I have absolutely no idea what’s gone into it.

Oh this is soo good. Vincent Carême’s Yellow Vermouth – a few bottles already reserved for us.

A few more drams and some contemplation required before I can tell you any more.

Have a good week!