It took me three years, but I finally made it to the annual Pop, Fizz, Clink champagne tasting at Wine + Beer in the Santa Barbara Public Market last year, and it was one of the more enlightening, delicious, appropriately priced wine affairs of the year. The world of capital-“c” Champagne is dominated by the major houses — which buy grapes from small growers around the famous French region to make their big blends — but this tasting focuses on grower Champagnes, those grown and made by much smaller, typically family-run operations.
“Other than a few iconic producers, like Billecart, we’re focusing on small-producer, bang-for-your-buck, sommelier-candy-type Champagne,” said Wine + Beer’s Joe Zapata, who is organizing this year’s event. Highlights of the 12-bottle selection include the Varnier-Fannière Brut Grand Cru Grand Vintage 2009 and the Vilmart & Cie Grand Cellier Rilly-la-Montagne 1er Cru NV.
It’s not cheap at $95, but if it’s anything like last year, the bubbles and knowledge keep flowing all night, courtesy of the educated purveyors who pour each bottle. Re-tastes are encouraged, and the food is also pretty stunning — last year’s spread included fresh oysters that kept reappearing, among other high-end nibbles. The vibe was also intimate — Wine + Beer is not that big of a space, though this year will spill out into the common area — yet seasonally celebratory, as sparkles tend to encourage. It’s a c-note well spent.
The fourth annual Pop, Fizz, Clink Champagne Tasting is on Saturday, December 9, 7-9 p.m., at Wine + Beer in the Santa Barbara Public Market (38 W. Victoria St.). See independent.com/bubbles2017 for tickets.