Life in the Loire on lock-down. 25th March. Day eleven.

It’s nearly lunchtime and I’m still sitting on the computer responding to all the lovely messages from friends, relatives, previous clients and winey contacts around the world. It’s my birthday today. One I won’t forget.

Connections on social media can seem a little vacuous at times but every message I’ve received today has been gratefully received and provided such comfort. Thanks to everyone for their kind words of congratulations and support in this rather bizarre period we are all living through.

Another beautiful sunny day here in the Loire. Once again we realise how lucky we are to live in the countryside.

We were worried about local growers last night (well very early this morning) as temperatures were due to drop below zero and so candles were lit, blowers used and heaters installed in the vineyards all around the Loire valley. News as the day has gone on is positive with no real damage recorded. Phew! The first frost of the season has come and gone.

We enjoyed a glass of Alain Robert’s lovely Extra Brut Vouvray in the garden at lunchtime with simply steamed green asparagus, an egg and some smoky lardons. It’s a delicious glass of fizz that has had 3 years ageing sur lattes before bottling which really shows through on the nose and palate. A good way to get my celebrations going.

Tonight I’ve been invited out to a little local bistro called ‘Chez Nigel’. I’m told it’s very good and the wine list is interesting. Very convenient too. I just need to walk through the tasting room into the dining room below.

Early evening was spent chatting to friends I’ve not spoken to for months. I caught up with my oldest friend from schooldays on Facetime. We’re both equally useless at keeping in touch with each other but when we do, we just pick up where we left off. Her brother and his wife are both medics in the UK and it was worrying to hear their take on the current situation at their hospital in Leicester.

Tania Carême popped round just before dinner with some wine as a birthday gift which was a lovely surprise that made my day. Tania and I go walking together once a week in the vineyards but this has had to stop unfortunately. A few bottles of her lovely wine will make life infinitely more bearable until we can resume our vineyard promenades! She left it at the gate and I waved from the house.

On the menu this evening was smoked trout with ricotta, dill and lemon served with a large squeeze of lemon, followed by a tournados of duck with deep fried aubergine stuffed with cherry tomatoes, capers, olives and basil and a dressed roquette salad. A selection of cheeses followed (Gorgonzola, Cantal and Cabris de Touraine).

The ricotta stuffed smoked trout was delicious and easy to make. Nigel mixed up 150g of fresh ricotta with lots of finely chopped fresh dill, the finely grated rind of a lemon and plenty of sea salt and pepper. He then spread that thickly over the slices of smoked trout and rolled them up (2 slices of trout per person). You could of course use smoked salmon instead.

We enjoyed Huet’s Le Haut Lieu 2017 with the trout and Domaine de la Cotellaraie’s Vau Jaumier 2017 with the duck. 2017 is one of our preferred recent vintages in the Loire. The wines have lovely fruit and precision and are backed up with beautiful balancing acidity.