Life in the Loire on lock-down. 12 April. Day twenty nine.

Another sunny morning this Easter Sunday. As I lie in bed I can hear the gentle hum of the cooler in the winery opposite. A sure sign that the weather has turned warmer.

After a cup of tea I ‘fed’ Sally starter. She’s very slow to get excited about being fed. Persevere. This morning’s loaf from the oven was a no-knead one that I made last night.

I had to smile tidying up in the kitchen this morning. We have a pot, a large ceramic pot, beside the hob, and in it is a selection of utensils that we use on a regular basis when cooking. Wooden spoons, the non stick spatula, the tongs, the draining spoon. Things that need to be within grabbing distance.

I put them in the pot handle down and Nigel puts them in the pot handle up. Every time I pass the pot I remove the things he has put in it and put them ‘the right way round’. This is how it is. He still puts things in the pot the ‘wrong way round’ and I continue to put them the ‘right way’. And so it will continue.

We had a catch up with family in the UK by Messenger over a coffee. No-one has any news to tell but it’s nice to see their faces and connect if only for a short time.

Lunch in the garden was the rest of the Scotch eggs I made yesterday without the accompanying stress but with a small glass of Touche Mitaine 2017, a lively Montlouis sur Loire from Xavier Weisskopf.

We’re both particularly fond of the 17’s from the Loire in general as the wines have lovely acidity (that’s not so obvious on the 18’s for example). Xavier’s wines have lovely balance and a real purity that isn’t often evident over here.

Touche Mitaine moves a bit more towards the style you find in Bréze just outside Saumur where lean, direct wines of incredible precision are found. It’s a baby and has the the class to age well if we can keep our hands off the other bottles in the cellar.

I’ve taken to having a few words with Sally starter when I pass. Her bubbles really are a bit pathetic. She doesn’t seem to be playing the game. Maybe a few encouraging words will help? But maybe my attititude towards her is to blame?

Nigel has opened up a magnum for us to have with dinner tonight. We don’t intend to drink it all (although you never know), but there’s something rather festive about a magnum isn’t there? We did have just a sneaky taste earlier to see how it was tasting (work you know!) and it seemed to be the right choice for our lamb.

The wine in question is from Chateau de Minière in Bourgueil, an estate run by a dynamic Belgian lady Kathleen Meerels Van den Burghe. Vignes Centenaires de Minière 2009 comes from 100 year old Cabernet Franc vines.

The 2009 season was hot and sunny and the tannins pronounced for quite a few years afterwards. 10 years on and those tannins have softened and all the lovely forest fruit character backed up with rich notes of spice and oak are beautifully integrated into the wine. Something to look forward to . It’ll be interesting to see how it tastes tomorrow as well when it will have been open for 24 hours.

A magnum of Bourgueil from Chateau de Minière’s 100 year old vines to celebrate Easter

Sitting in the tasting room this afternoon, the sun is streaming in through the windows and lights up the white orchid that sits on the windowsill. It was a present to us from our next door neighours Mark and Marie when we first moved in and one year on it’s flowering again.

While Nigel is great in the garden, neither of us professes to be great with house plants but he has looked after it all winter, giving it just a teeny bit of water from time to time (as advised) and it has repaid all that love and attention. About half the flowers have bloomed and there are another 1O or so to follow.

Orchids are so beautiful and the flowers last for weeks. It was so exciting when we realised it was going to flower again. It’s giving us lots of pleasure and more than a touch of self satisfaction.

To kick off the evening, we’re going to have a lock-down cocktail – a Marmalade Martini. The recipe says you should use vodka and we don’t have any vodka so we’re going to use gin instead. We figure that a true Martini can be vodka or gin based so it will work.

You take 50ml of gin (vodka), 2 teaspoons of suger and 2 heaped teaspoons of good quality marmalade, put in all in a shaker with a splash of water and some ice and then give it a long hard shake. When you feel your arms are going to drop off, you keep on shaking before straining it into a martini glass. Sounds great.

‘Cathy, Cathy?’

We were in the garden when Nigel heard someone calling my name. What a lovely surprise. A posse of winemaker friends on the way back down from the vineyards just above the house. First Philippe Chigard in his truck, then Michel Autran in his yellow van and finally, Claude Airaud-cabel. It was so nice to see them and exchange a few words in the early evening sunshine. They’d been watering some trees they’d planted recently in the vineyards to increase bio-diversity.

We smiled and waved to them as they went on their way. There is lots to do in the vineyard at the moment and nature stops for noone. In many ways the life of the vigneron continues as normal during the lock-down although of course the sales and distribution of wine are practically dead at the moment.

A Marmalade Martini in the garden before dinner

The Marmalade Martini was far too sweet for us although we loved the flavour and will try again using half as much sugar and marmalade next time. Any excuse for another cocktail.

Dinner was long slow cooked lamb shanks with harissa and red onions and a couscous perfumed with lemon, saffron, olives and herbs. The 100 year old vine Cabernet Franc was a wonderful partner.

Lamb shanks with harissa and red onion and a herby saffron couscous

Macron will speak to the nation again tomorrow night at 20h00. It looks like confinement is likely to be extended again.