Sonoma, Calif.— Windee Smith and Chad Richards, proprietors of The Panel Wine Club, are pleased to announce the launch of Pop Culture, a wine club devoted exclusively to small-production, grower Champagne and artisanal sparkling wine from around the world. Members will receive three or six bottles every eight weeks or on a quarterly basis, each wine a rare and exciting discovery. The first shipments alone will include 2010 Pierre Gimonnet Special Club Brut Champagne and 2011 Vilmart Grand Cellier d’Or Premier Cru.
“The wines we select for Pop Culture are highly allocated and rarely appear anywhere other than on the lists of the most cutting-edge restaurants,” Richards says. “These are the insider choices that every wine lover wants to know about, and then, actually be able to get their hands on. We are able to help them do both.”
Smith and Richards came up with the idea for Pop Culture while doing their monthly tastings for The Panel Wine Club. More than any other category, Champagne and sparkling wines consistently offered tremendous pleasure at every price point. “It was a simple decision to create a wine club to make it easier for people to get the best bubbles in the world,” Richards says. “Over the next year, we’ll feature sparking wine from Italy, Austria, Tasmania, California, Germany, the UK, Champagne, the Loire—anywhere we find extraordinary bubbles.”
During the past decade, the production of boutique bubbles has come into its own. The movement was sparked by the rise of grower-producer “farmer fizz” in Champagne. The more recent popularity of pét-nat (pétillant-naturel) among natural-wine makers gave it a boost, and so did a growing appreciation among wine drinkers, who finally realized that sparkling wine can be an everyday pleasure.
“There is an ocean of sparkling wine in the world right now, and really, that’s too much of a good thing for consumers,” says Smith, who has spent her career in wine retail and restaurants. “Finding the gems from each country would be a 24/7 pursuit. Now Pop Culture will do that for you.”
Pop Culture offers two memberships: La Bonne Vie, for Champagne only, and Rising Bubbles, for a global selection of sparkling wine, including Champagne. Members of either club will receive shipments of three different bottles every other month, or on a quarterly basis if they prefer. They may also opt to receive two bottles of each selection, for a total of six bottles every other month or quarterly.
La Bonne Vie’s first shipment—available now through Oct. 31—starts off with a bang. The three selections represent some of the coveted small-production wines in the Champagne region: 2010 Pierre Gimonnet Special Club Brut, 2011 Vilmart Grand Cellier d’Or Premier Cru Brut, and the non-vintage Platine Premier Cru Brut from the ninth-generation Champagne vigneron Nicolas Maillart
While future Rising Bubbles shipments will contain global selections, the first will offer a broader picture of France’s leading producers: Loire winemaker Marc Plouzeau’s Perle Sauvage Pét-Nat, the luxurious Jacquesson Cuvée 740 Champagne, and Platine, the Premier Cru Brut Champagne from Nicolas Maillart.
Every selection will be accompanied by information on the winemaker, the region, and the wine itself. And each new member’s first shipment will include a custom binder to hold this background information and tasting notes for future reference.
The Pop Culture website, http://www.clubpopculture.com, makes it easy to sign up as a member or to arrange an extraordinary gift for a lucky client, colleague, or friend. Pricing for membership in La Bonne Vie begins at $229 per shipment, and for Rising Bubbles, $139 per shipment. Just a few clicks will guarantee a fresh flow of great sparkling wine delivered direct to your door.
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Pop Culture is part of The Panel Wine Club, a Sonoma-based club dedicated to distinctive, artisanally produced wine. Windee Smith and Chad Richards use their experience and contacts to source hard-to-find wines from around the world. Each one is tasted blind by an ever-changing panel of wine experts, who make the final selection of the three bottles offered to club members each month.