Christmas trees are littering the curb. Bing Crosby’s croon has vanished from the radio. No more chestnuts roasting or sleigh bells ringing. Finally, that gluttonous interval between Thanksgiving and New Year’s that we term “the holidays” has run its merry course. And I have to admit: After having spent the last two-and-a-half months gorging on a range of roast birds diverse enough to rival the contents of John Audubon’s notebooks, not to mention the rivers of gravy, the endless variations of stuffing and pies of all persuasions, all washed down with bottle after bottle of wine (made in every conceivable color and style, from sparkling to dry to sweet, from red, to white, to pink and even the elusive orange) — I’ve had my fill.
At this point, I’d say I’m ready for a juice cleanse. That is, of course, if wine counts as juice. Because no matter how ascetic my mood might be, a glass or two with dinner is a basic, life-affirming pleasure that I’m simply unwilling to go without. Yet, for all the time we spend obsessing over holiday wine recommendations — what to pair with the Christmas ham, the bird and trimmings, etc — no one ever seems to talk about what to drink in the aftermath, once the leftovers have been devoured and life returns to a more measured gastronomic pace.
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In fact, I’ve always found it ironic that we tend to reserve sparkling wines for special occasions, when their style so perfectly suits casual, everyday drinking. I’m not talking about the kind of luxurious, unctuous Champagne that deserves to be served alongside appropriately rich fare: poached lobster, say, or a runny slice of Brie. At this time of the year, not only have I exhausted my Champagne budget, but I’m looking for an altogether different breed of sparkler: something clean, bracing and crisp, whose perky effervescence operates as a “hair of the dog” remedy for the post-holiday hangover.
So when I discovered that in recent years, as something of a fun side project, one of my favorite French winemakers has been making a fresh, zesty, low-alcohol sparkler known as Atmosphères, I knew it would be just the kind of curative bubbly I’d been craving.
The man in question is none other than Jo Landron, owner of the esteemed Domaine de la Louvetrie estate in Muscadet — a vigneron whose renown for crafting elegant, mineral-infused whites from the local Melon de Bourgogne grape is eclipsed only by his legendary mustache. I first encountered Landron a few years back, while attending the Salon des Vins de Loire in Angers. Although his whiskers might have been the first thing I noticed about him, from the moment I tasted his range of wines I knew that he was doing something special.
I could easily exhaust my remaining word count describing his entire lineup of superlative Muscadet cuvées, whether the racy Amphibolite, the stony Fief du Breil or the densely packed Hermine d’Or, each of which is farmed organically and represents the expression of its own unique single-vineyard terroir. These are the kind of wines that, along with those of a few like-minded peers, have helped Muscadet shed its image as a simple lubricant for washing down oysters and gain recognition as a truly site-expressive wine worthy of contemplation.
With their invigorating salinity and acidic cut, any one of Landron’s efforts would offer a welcome antidote to the particular form of seasonal lethargy I’ve been suffering from. But it’s his sparkling Atmosphères bottling that best fits the bill.
Just a quick glance at the label (featuring a playful cartoon drawing of a festive drinker, glass in hand, perched atop a giant stack of bottles) sets the tone for what’s in store. Officially designated a Vin Mousseux de Qualité, the wine is produced in the traditional Champagne method, with secondary fermentation in bottle, but once in the glass it’s a much more lighthearted affair. A hand-picked blend of Folle Blanche (one of the area’s more interesting secondary grapes) with a touch of Pinot Noir for body, it’s zippy, lemony and bright, with a slightly chalky grip guaranteed to enliven even the most oversaturated palate. Think of it as liquid Prozac.
Now’s not the time to worry about fastidious wine pairings. So, in that spirit, I’d suggest drinking the Atmosphères with just about anything you like. Best of all, it’s delicious all by itself, while waiting for your appetite to return — which, if you’re anything like me, will surely be soon.
Top photo: Jo Landron. Credit: Candid Wines