Classifying farmer fizz

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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#51 Post by J. Rock »

Howard Cooper wrote: January 1st, 2021, 6:23 am
J. Rock wrote: December 31st, 2020, 2:31 pm But where does Vincent Couche fit into all of this?
You tell us
I haven't had enough other top grower bottlings to say how they all stack up, but I think everyone who likes umami notes in their Champagne should try Vincent Couche Sensation (it's late disgorged)! His entry level Elegance NV is good for the price too. He pays very close attention to the fruit in the fields and wine in the cellar and is certified biodynamic. For me, Couche proves that great Champagne can be found outside of what are traditionally considered the most prestigious Champagne regions (Couche is out of Côte des Bar). champagne.gif
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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#52 Post by Jayson Cohen »

Howard Cooper wrote: January 1st, 2021, 6:19 am For example, I am very interested in the comments from people who would downgrade Selosse. I mostly put Selosse in its own category because of price (well, that is how the Bordeaux classification was originally done) and am not sure myself how much I like the wines. I wanted to see the reactions of others and am glad to be getting them.
How does consistency affect your initial ranking? I find Selosse highs to be very high. But I have also found some inconsistency over the years, both when considered in isolation or as compared for example to a house like Vilmart. And when the wines sway too oxidative, which for Selosse happened less than others who tried to emulate Selosse, you lose me.

I’m a little baffled at ranking by price. It’s not 1855. Or is your theory that market (in whole? in part?) determines quality? I would have thought on this Board, price would not drive anyone’s ranking. Price also has not seemed to affect what I see you liking in Burgundy and Germany,

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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#53 Post by Howard Cooper »

Jayson Cohen wrote: January 1st, 2021, 9:45 am
Howard Cooper wrote: January 1st, 2021, 6:19 am For example, I am very interested in the comments from people who would downgrade Selosse. I mostly put Selosse in its own category because of price (well, that is how the Bordeaux classification was originally done) and am not sure myself how much I like the wines. I wanted to see the reactions of others and am glad to be getting them.
How does consistency affect your initial ranking? I find Selosse highs to be very high. But I have also found some inconsistency over the years, both when considered in isolation or as compared for example to a house like Vilmart. And when the wines sway too oxidative, which for Selosse happened less than others who tried to emulate Selosse, you lose me.

I’m a little baffled at ranking by price. It’s not 1855. Or is your theory that market (in whole? in part?) determines quality? I would have thought on this Board, price would not drive anyone’s ranking. Price also has not seemed to affect what I see you liking in Burgundy and Germany,
My theory was I wanted to put something down to start a discussion. I put Selosse in its own category because it is in one by price and by views of friends (I have friends who really like the wines) and critics. Personally, I find the wines too oxidative. I tend not to like wines in a real oxidative style, like Koehler-Ruprecht traditionally made in Germany. I have not believed that my dislike of the wines of KR made the wines bad, but rather represented a personal preference. As a result of personal preference, I do not buy Selosse. However, I did not think I should downgrade Selosse because I viewed my dislike as a personal preference on style rather than a quality distinction.
Last edited by Howard Cooper on January 1st, 2021, 11:58 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#54 Post by Blake Brown »

Brad Baker wrote: December 31st, 2020, 7:38 am
Sarah Kirschbaum wrote: December 31st, 2020, 7:17 am
That's exactly my point. Classification should not be about what any one taster likes. There's no universe in which someone who is trying to judge quality puts Egly near the bottom, only someone who doesn't happen to like it. Of course we won't get a consensus, but I think when trying to do a classification, we should be at least trying to put personal taste secondary to the extent possible.
Sarah,

Completely agree. There are many wines that I personally don't find to be my favorites, but that are undeniably top notch. To me, it isn't about liking a wine as much as it is about respecting, appreciating, and understanding. It just like people and life in general - you don't need to be buddy-buddy with everyone, but there should be proper respect and recognition. Not everyone is going to choose to drink Selosse or Egly, but you cannot deny that both belong at the upper end of any grower/small producer ranking.
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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#55 Post by Howard Cooper »

Blake Brown wrote: January 1st, 2021, 11:57 am
Brad Baker wrote: December 31st, 2020, 7:38 am
Sarah Kirschbaum wrote: December 31st, 2020, 7:17 am
That's exactly my point. Classification should not be about what any one taster likes. There's no universe in which someone who is trying to judge quality puts Egly near the bottom, only someone who doesn't happen to like it. Of course we won't get a consensus, but I think when trying to do a classification, we should be at least trying to put personal taste secondary to the extent possible.
Sarah,

Completely agree. There are many wines that I personally don't find to be my favorites, but that are undeniably top notch. To me, it isn't about liking a wine as much as it is about respecting, appreciating, and understanding. It just like people and life in general - you don't need to be buddy-buddy with everyone, but there should be proper respect and recognition. Not everyone is going to choose to drink Selosse or Egly, but you cannot deny that both belong at the upper end of any grower/small producer ranking.
Completely agree.
So, some people criticize what I have done for using not enough of personal preference and others criticize me for using too much personal preference. I must have done something right if I can be attacked from both fronts.
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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#56 Post by D@vid Bu3ker »

Hot take alert...

Why do people who mostly eschew point ratings, still want to classify things? Makes no sense to me.
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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#57 Post by Sarah Kirschbaum »

Howard Cooper wrote: January 1st, 2021, 12:00 pm
Blake Brown wrote: January 1st, 2021, 11:57 am
Brad Baker wrote: December 31st, 2020, 7:38 am

Sarah,

Completely agree. There are many wines that I personally don't find to be my favorites, but that are undeniably top notch. To me, it isn't about liking a wine as much as it is about respecting, appreciating, and understanding. It just like people and life in general - you don't need to be buddy-buddy with everyone, but there should be proper respect and recognition. Not everyone is going to choose to drink Selosse or Egly, but you cannot deny that both belong at the upper end of any grower/small producer ranking.
Completely agree.
So, some people criticize what I have done for using not enough of personal preference and others criticize me for using too much personal preference. I must have done something right if I can be attacked from both fronts.
Howard - Once again, we're not criticizing you, let alone attacking you! It has nothing to do with you at all. If you propose a question, it's perfectly reasonable for those responding to talk about the best way to go about answering it and what the criteria might be.
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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#58 Post by Howard Cooper »

Sarah Kirschbaum wrote: January 1st, 2021, 12:06 pm
Howard Cooper wrote: January 1st, 2021, 12:00 pm
Blake Brown wrote: January 1st, 2021, 11:57 am

Completely agree.
So, some people criticize what I have done for using not enough of personal preference and others criticize me for using too much personal preference. I must have done something right if I can be attacked from both fronts.
Howard - Once again, we're not criticizing you, let alone attacking you! It has nothing to do with you at all. If you propose a question, it's perfectly reasonable for those responding to talk about the best way to go about answering it and what the criteria might be.
I am extremely happy when people suggest that they believe producers should be evaluated differently from how I have done. I don't know how to answer whether this should be done based on personal preference.

But, I have a problem understanding what there is at some point other than personal preference. At what point does the personal preference of enough people become objective? Is it possible to have an objectively great wine that nobody likes? I doubt it but even if there is, what would be the point of the wine if nobody likes it. At what point does the personal preference of enough people mean a wine is great. Does this differ if the wine is made in small quantities like Selosse (so that the personal preference of a relative handful of people can mean prices go way up) than for a wine made in huge quantities (say Dom Perignon) - to what extent are prices for this based on preference and to what extent based on brand name).
Last edited by Howard Cooper on January 12th, 2021, 3:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#59 Post by Billbell »

Howard Cooper wrote: January 1st, 2021, 6:22 am
Billbell wrote: December 31st, 2020, 9:56 am Filaine should be on the list, and pretty high up.
This is one name I have not even heard of. Please discuss in more detail.
Filaine is a relatively new grower owned by Fabrice Gass, who worked at Bollinger and started this as a side project. He’s a traditionalist who ferments in wood with no malolactic fermentation. Dosage is low but not extreme (I personally find many of the no dosage/low dosage cult champagnes a bit hollow) and the wines have great acidic tension, complexity, and depth. I’ve really enjoyed those I’ve tried.

I’m a fan of Selosse, Ulysse Collin, and Bereche in particular but have enjoyed many of the producers on your initial list.

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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#60 Post by D@vid Bu3ker »

Howard,

You have a lot of questions that will take a great deal of discussion. This could be a 100 page thread to get close to consensus. Look what happens anytime they try to implement classification updates in France. It’s a complicated process with loads of disparate opinions.
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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#61 Post by Otto Forsberg »

Howard Cooper wrote: January 1st, 2021, 11:52 amI tend not to like wines in a real oxidative style, like Koehler-Ruprecht traditionally made in Germany. I have not believed that my dislike of the wines of KR made the wines bad, but rather represented a personal preference.
It sounds you have just had bad bottles of Koehler-Ruprecht. They are not made in any "real oxidative style"; their vinification does not differ at all from any other traditionalist German producer who employ old oak stück and fuder vats instead of stainless steel. However, the wines are made in a rather naturalist style and are susceptible to oxidation if kept in poor conditions - I've had some oxidized and prematurely evolved K-R wines myself as well. However, pristine bottles do not show any obvious oxidative character.

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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#62 Post by Billbell »

Otto Forsberg wrote: January 1st, 2021, 2:23 pm
Howard Cooper wrote: January 1st, 2021, 11:52 amI tend not to like wines in a real oxidative style, like Koehler-Ruprecht traditionally made in Germany. I have not believed that my dislike of the wines of KR made the wines bad, but rather represented a personal preference.
It sounds you have just had bad bottles of Koehler-Ruprecht. They are not made in any "real oxidative style"; their vinification does not differ at all from any other traditionalist German producer who employ old oak stück and fuder vats instead of stainless steel. However, the wines are made in a rather naturalist style and are susceptible to oxidation if kept in poor conditions - I've had some oxidized and prematurely evolved K-R wines myself as well. However, pristine bottles do not show any obvious oxidative character.
This has been my experience with Koehler-Ruprecht, too, but I have to say that the high rate of truly oxidized bottles I’ve opened has made me gun-shy about purchasing them in the future.

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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#63 Post by J.Vizuete »

I interpret Howard’s most recent question to mean: what are the categorical objective measures by which to measure “quality”, if not pricing and personal stylistic preference?

I lean toward nuance, finesse and complexity as my own measures of quality but surely they are subjective.

For the record, I do think J. Selosse belongs in the highest tier, and I’m not sure who his company would be there. Perhaps Anselme? I haven’t had any of those wines though. I would have Prévost and Egly-Ouriet in tier two, along with Bereche.

As many have pointed out though, a classification of producers makes little sense when each producers own range is so broad.. something I actually appreciate as I can taste the Initiale without having to pony up for substance or a vintage lieu dit, for example. So, in my mind, it’s more of a game of no consequence, but a fun exercise nonetheless, and now I get to go seek out a wine or two from Filaine! The journey continues...
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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#64 Post by Howard Cooper »

Billbell wrote: January 1st, 2021, 3:26 pm

This has been my experience with Koehler-Ruprecht, too, but I have to say that the high rate of truly oxidized bottles I’ve opened has made me gun-shy about purchasing them in the future.
What time-period are the wines you are drinking from? My experience with them was mostly wines made in the 1980s. Did not like the wines at all. Did not buy more.
Last edited by Howard Cooper on January 12th, 2021, 3:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#65 Post by Tom G l a s g o w »

Howard Cooper wrote: January 1st, 2021, 5:38 pm
Billbell wrote: January 1st, 2021, 3:26 pm

This has been my experience with Koehler-Ruprecht, too, but I have to say that the high rate of truly oxidized bottles I’ve opened has made me gun-shy about purchasing them in the future.
What time-period are the wines you are drinking from? My experience with them was mostly in the 1980s. Did not like the wines at all. Did not buy more.
But we’re they good?

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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#66 Post by D@vid Bu3ker »

1980s KR in the USA meant Kronheim handling the imports. Disaster!
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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#67 Post by Billbell »

Howard Cooper wrote: January 1st, 2021, 5:38 pm [quote=Billbell post_id=3158253 time=1609543567 user_id=15432

What time-period are the wines you are drinking from? My experience with them was mostly in the 1980s. Did not like the wines at all. Did not buy more.
These were 2007-2010 vintages. They were generally either fantastic or flat, flaccid apple juice. I didn’t care for the randomness, especially when there are so many consistently brilliant rieslings from other producers, so I’ve quit buying them. I do have some R and RR Koehler Ruprecht still in the cellar that’s getting close to its drinking window.
Last edited by Billbell on January 2nd, 2021, 8:58 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#68 Post by Otto Forsberg »

Howard Cooper wrote: January 1st, 2021, 5:38 pm What time-period are the wines you are drinking from? My experience with them was mostly in the 1980s. Did not like the wines at all. Did not buy more.
So you talk about a producer based on a handful of experiences that are almost 40 years old? Oh wow! [thumbs-up.gif]
J.Vizuete wrote: January 1st, 2021, 5:30 pm For the record, I do think J. Selosse belongs in the highest tier, and I’m not sure who his company would be there. Perhaps Anselme?
Could you please explain a little bit more? I'm not entirely sure if this makes any sense.

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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#69 Post by J.Vizuete »

Otto Forsberg wrote: January 2nd, 2021, 2:44 am
J.Vizuete wrote: January 1st, 2021, 5:30 pm For the record, I do think J. Selosse belongs in the highest tier, and I’m not sure who his company would be there. Perhaps Anselme?
Could you please explain a little bit more? I'm not entirely sure if this makes any sense.
Sorry, you’re right. Anselme is the father and Guillaume is his son. Looks like he has made a few cuvees on his own and will eventually take over the Domaine. I recall seeing some of those command high auction prices but haven’t tasted them myself. My mistake.

My point though was that in a hypothetical tiering of grower champagnes, I think Domaine Jacques Selosse belongs at the very top with Egly Ouriet close behind. I also consider the impact that Anselme has had on both farming and winemaking in this category along with a longstanding track record for producing distinctive wines in high demand. I recall William making a really interesting video on Selosse, link below:

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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#70 Post by JBrochu »

Does anybody here have experience with Bardoux (Montagne des Reims) or Jacques Robin (Cote des Bar)? I have access to these from a local importer, but cannot find much information about them other than what the importer says.

I've had mixed results with the Robin's that I've tried so far: loved the NV Brut, thought the NV blanc de blancs was ok, and thought the vintage 2011 Kimmeridgienne was too sweet for my tastes. I haven't tried Bardoux yet.
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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#71 Post by William Kelley »

I tend to think that Champagne's big houses lend themselves better to some sort of hierarchical classification than the growers. Producers such as, to pick three examples, Selosse, Lassaigne and Prévost have such strong individual styles that they will necessarily evoke strong personal responses. Indeed, the luxury that these small producers have is to be able to produce intensely characterful, idiosyncratic, even divisive wines, which find a very enthusiastic following even if they're too extreme for many consumers. Selosse, for example, is quite explicit about doing this. One drinker might love the richness and texture and biologically aged patina of Selosse and Prévost, while finding Lassaigne too incisive and austere; another might love the precision of Lassaigne's wines and find Selosse's too fleshy and vinous. This gets us into questions about whether quality is separable from personal taste. The reality is that recognition as a "high quality producer" is simply the result of a consensus between people sharing the same personal tastes. And I think in the case of some of the most well-known growers cited in this thread, there is unlikely to be enough of a consensus of this kind to arrive at any kind of widely accepted classification. Just look at how Selosse is rated in the Stevenson & Avellan Champagne book vs. TWA.
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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#72 Post by Karl K »

J.Vizuete wrote: January 2nd, 2021, 5:56 am
Otto Forsberg wrote: January 2nd, 2021, 2:44 am
J.Vizuete wrote: January 1st, 2021, 5:30 pm For the record, I do think J. Selosse belongs in the highest tier, and I’m not sure who his company would be there. Perhaps Anselme?
Could you please explain a little bit more? I'm not entirely sure if this makes any sense.
Sorry, you’re right. Anselme is the father and Guillaume is his son. Looks like he has made a few cuvees on his own and will eventually take over the Domaine. I recall seeing some of those command high auction prices but haven’t tasted them myself. My mistake.

My point though was that in a hypothetical tiering of grower champagnes, I think Domaine Jacques Selosse belongs at the very top with Egly Ouriet close behind. I also consider the impact that Anselme has had on both farming and winemaking in this category along with a longstanding track record for producing distinctive wines in high demand. I recall William making a really interesting video on Selosse, link below:

Thanks for sharing the video, another great one by WK.

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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#73 Post by David Glasser »

William Kelley wrote: January 2nd, 2021, 7:26 am I tend to think that Champagne's big houses lend themselves better to some sort of hierarchical classification than the growers. Producers such as, to pick three examples, Selosse, Lassaigne and Prévost have such strong individual styles that they will necessarily evoke strong personal responses. Indeed, the luxury that these small producers have is to be able to produce intensely characterful, idiosyncratic, even divisive wines, which find a very enthusiastic following even if they're too extreme for many consumers. Selosse, for example, is quite explicit about doing this. One drinker might love the richness and texture and biologically aged patina of Selosse and Prévost, while finding Lassaigne too incisive and austere; another might love the precision of Lassaigne's wines and find Selosse's too fleshy and vinous. This gets us into questions about whether quality is separable from personal taste. The reality is that recognition as a "high quality producer" is simply the result of a consensus between people sharing the same personal tastes. And I think in the case of some of the most well-known growers cited in this thread, there is unlikely to be enough of a consensus of this kind to arrive at any kind of widely accepted classification. Just look at how Selosse is rated in the Stevenson & Avellan Champagne book vs. TWA.
My initial reaction was along these lines as well, making me think it might be more useful to classify specific wines based primarily on style. I have little experience with these wines, and that would be a more helpful introductory guide than quality or price rankings.

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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#74 Post by Dan Kravitz »

I represent two Champagne Estate Growers. Neither has been mentioned so far in this thread. IMO both make fine, perhaps occasionally great wine.

I believe there are ~3000 Estate Bottlers (RMs) in Champagne.

Will somebody who has tasted at least one bottling from every one of them please contribute to this thread?

Thank you.


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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#75 Post by D@vid Bu3ker »

Dan Kravitz wrote: January 3rd, 2021, 6:39 pm I represent two Champagne Estate Growers. Neither has been mentioned so far in this thread. IMO both make fine, perhaps occasionally great wine.

I believe there are ~3000 Estate Bottlers (RMs) in Champagne.

Will somebody who has tasted at least one bottling from every one of them please contribute to this thread?

Thank you.


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Have you tasted all 3000? Even the shitty ones?

They why does someone else have to taste the dreck?
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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#76 Post by LucyREdwards »

Keith A k e r s wrote: December 31st, 2020, 8:16 am
IlkkaL wrote: December 31st, 2020, 5:39 am I think both Lanson and Jacquesson buy grapes even if the latter mostly farms theirs so strictly speaking they are not supposed to be here (Lanson especially so).

Bereche also purchases fruit. Such are reasons that I have disdained the term grower and have focused more on referring to such producers as Small House Champagne. There are shitty growers and amazing small producers that buy fruit and vice-versa


Completely agree. 15 years ago we could tell from the registration letters (NM vs RM). Nowadays with inheritance tax, land prices so high, and a system geared towards volumes, lots of the RMs are moving to NMs. Lots of small producers are buying grapes and including it in their wines. For example;
- Etienne Calsac buys grapes from his mum's vineyard next door
- De Sousa buys organic grapes from Avize and a few surrounding villages
- Marguet buys from Leclapart, Laval and Lahaye

They all still produce less than 150 000 bottles a year.
Does that make them houses rather than grower? Nope.

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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#77 Post by Phil T r o t t e r »

No love for Laval? Savart? I think they are in the upper tiers (2).

I didn't see any mention of Doquet either. Leclerc-Briant makes some nice stuff. Larmandier-Bernier is delicious. Maybe all mid-tiered (3, 4)?

Francis Boulard and Bruno Paillard would be in my lower tier (5).

Egly-Ouriet, Péters, Vilmart, Lassaigne, Bérêche, Colin, Bouchard, Prévost, Selosse, etc... were already mentionned and loved.

I'm having a hard-time thinking of true contenders for the top tier. I can't think of a single producer that would be the figurehead for this list. I think I would bump up all my solid tier 2 to tier 1 (Egly, Savart, Prévost, Bouchard, Colin, maybe even Lassaigne, etc.) and call it a day.

Subjective? Yes. Incomplete? Yes. For example, I purchased Péters for the first time last year due to recommendations from this board so, I'm definitely missing exposure to all grower Champagne to be able to weigh in as an authority. And I've almost had all of my champagne with little age on it after release. I'm pretty sure that skews the list considerably compared to others.

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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#78 Post by Dan Kravitz »

D@vid Bu3ker wrote: January 3rd, 2021, 6:41 pm
Dan Kravitz wrote: January 3rd, 2021, 6:39 pm I represent two Champagne Estate Growers. Neither has been mentioned so far in this thread. IMO both make fine, perhaps occasionally great wine.

I believe there are ~3000 Estate Bottlers (RMs) in Champagne.

Will somebody who has tasted at least one bottling from every one of them please contribute to this thread?

Thank you.


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Have you tasted all 3000? Even the shitty ones?

They why does someone else have to taste the dreck?
David,

No, I haven't tasted all 3000. I've probably tasted about 100.

"Have you tasted all 3000? Even the shitty ones?"

That's my point: How do you know what's shitty and what's not if you don't taste them all. Or, to put it another way, how do you know what's good and what's great if you don't taste them all. My two growers remain unmentioned. I've had both of their wines blind in tastings with growers mentioned frequently in this thread. They have easily held their own.

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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#79 Post by Robert M yers »

Dan, are you suggesting that even in this heavily trafficked region by the critics that there are truly great undiscovered wines in the Wild? In one sense I find that quite exciting, but also hard to believe that the effort would be a worthwhile pursuit?

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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#80 Post by D@vid Bu3ker »

Robert M yers wrote: January 11th, 2021, 1:02 pm Dan, are you suggesting that even in this heavily trafficked region by the critics that there are truly great undiscovered wines in the Wild? In one sense I find that quite exciting, but also hard to believe that the effort would be a worthwhile pursuit?
Interesting growers still pop up. Generational changes, land sales and such lead to “new” or refreshed producers.
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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#81 Post by AD Northup »

D@vid Bu3ker wrote: January 11th, 2021, 1:16 pm
Robert M yers wrote: January 11th, 2021, 1:02 pm Dan, are you suggesting that even in this heavily trafficked region by the critics that there are truly great undiscovered wines in the Wild? In one sense I find that quite exciting, but also hard to believe that the effort would be a worthwhile pursuit?
Interesting growers still pop up. Generational changes, land sales and such lead to “new” or refreshed producers.
I’ve had two bottles of one of the producers Dan is referring to. One a NV BdB and the other a special release late disgorged bottle. I found them both to be well made champagnes, with the LD truly exciting, and for my taste profile would put them ahead of some others mentioned here I have tasted. However, this is to my taste, and I have not tried the full range of all of the producers, so it is merely my opinion based on my personal lens...as is everyone else’s commentary
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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#82 Post by Dan Kravitz »

Robert M yers wrote: January 11th, 2021, 1:02 pm Dan, are you suggesting that even in this heavily trafficked region by the critics that there are truly great undiscovered wines in the Wild? In one sense I find that quite exciting, but also hard to believe that the effort would be a worthwhile pursuit?
David Bueker beat me to the answer. In fact, I'd go further: Few if any Estate Bottlers are backsliding and every year many improve.

No, I don't have the time, money or palate to taste even one bottle from each of 3000 growers, but yes, I believe there are exciting releases every year from producers who are not on the critics' radar. Either a new generation, a grower inspired by what he or she has seen and tasted, or just somebody trying to do better.

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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#83 Post by Robert M yers »

Makes sense, I guess that what the direct importers we buy from are doing everyday. Boots on the ground finding the undiscovered gems.

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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#84 Post by William Kelley »

Robert M yers wrote: January 11th, 2021, 1:02 pm even in this heavily trafficked region by the critics that there are truly great undiscovered wines in the Wild?
I don't know about heavily trafficked... Since I started covering Champagne at The Wine Advocate, I have tended to spend a month per year in the region (less this year, sadly, as lockdown in France precluded two weeks of visits), which I suspect is as much as anyone now that Peter Liem no longer lives in the region. Antonio Galloni also visits growers extensively. But the only time I really risk meeting other critics is at e.g. a launch event for a new Krug release in Reims. If you are seeing lots of Champagne reviews, I think that's mostly because importers do a good job sending out a lot of samples. When you look at the new edition of the Stevenson & Avellan sparkling wine book, you will notice that many of the grower profiles have simply been reprinted without any changes from a decade ago. Now perhaps that's because nothing has changed, but it is not clear to me whether those growers have actually been visited in that time. All of which is to say that, no, on balance Champagne is not especially heavily trafficked by critics, and that there's a lot more to be done there!
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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#85 Post by Howard Cooper »

William Kelley wrote: January 2nd, 2021, 7:26 am I tend to think that Champagne's big houses lend themselves better to some sort of hierarchical classification than the growers. Producers such as, to pick three examples, Selosse, Lassaigne and Prévost have such strong individual styles that they will necessarily evoke strong personal responses. Indeed, the luxury that these small producers have is to be able to produce intensely characterful, idiosyncratic, even divisive wines, which find a very enthusiastic following even if they're too extreme for many consumers. Selosse, for example, is quite explicit about doing this. One drinker might love the richness and texture and biologically aged patina of Selosse and Prévost, while finding Lassaigne too incisive and austere; another might love the precision of Lassaigne's wines and find Selosse's too fleshy and vinous. This gets us into questions about whether quality is separable from personal taste. The reality is that recognition as a "high quality producer" is simply the result of a consensus between people sharing the same personal tastes. And I think in the case of some of the most well-known growers cited in this thread, there is unlikely to be enough of a consensus of this kind to arrive at any kind of widely accepted classification. Just look at how Selosse is rated in the Stevenson & Avellan Champagne book vs. TWA.
I think one primary reason to buy small producers in Champagne and, frankly from virtually anywhere, is to get wines with strong individual styles that will necessarily evoke strong personal responses. It is why I love Burgundy so much - and probably why a lot of people find Burgundy so frustrating. With small producers, you could have two wines that each "deserve" 92 points where I would love one of the wines and be more neutral to the other one. I have drunk a lot more Burgundy over the years than grower Champagne and in starting this thread was really interested in the strong personal responses evoked by board members from different wines. I set this up as a classification to get more preference ranking among participants rather than just producer x should be up there somewhere. I have no real interest in finding a consensus and doubt one could be very meaningful for the reasons you state.
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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#86 Post by Howard Cooper »

Dan Kravitz wrote: January 11th, 2021, 2:34 pm
Robert M yers wrote: January 11th, 2021, 1:02 pm Dan, are you suggesting that even in this heavily trafficked region by the critics that there are truly great undiscovered wines in the Wild? In one sense I find that quite exciting, but also hard to believe that the effort would be a worthwhile pursuit?
David Bueker beat me to the answer. In fact, I'd go further: Few if any Estate Bottlers are backsliding and every year many improve.

No, I don't have the time, money or palate to taste even one bottle from each of 3000 growers, but yes, I believe there are exciting releases every year from producers who are not on the critics' radar. Either a new generation, a grower inspired by what he or she has seen and tasted, or just somebody trying to do better.

Dan Kravitz
How many of the 3000 make wine and wine that is imported into the US. As a consumer, it does me no good to learn about a small producer in Champagne whose wines are only sold at the winery, etc., and do not make it into the US. As an importer, of course, for you these are opportunities to find and import the "Bachelet" of Champagne. So, I would say more of these 3000 are of more practical importance for you than for me.
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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#87 Post by Brad Baker »

Howard,

If I had to rank the producers who I think are in the top tier in Champange they would be the six that follow. I enjoy wines from all of these producers, but not all of them are my personal favorites. My top tier is based on a mix of historical track record, respect for vision/practices, and personal preferences/tastes. This list isn't focused on the newest or hottest producers of the moment, but rather on a big picture across time covering both recent releases and wines from the past.

- Jacques Selosse
- Vilmart
- Pierre Peters
- Lilbert
- Egly-Ouriet
- Pascal Agrapart

Of these six, I think Selosse and Vilmart are a level above the others and would belong in the top tier of any Champagne ranking regardless of producer type or size. Agrapart is the sixth entry on my list and I struggled with whether they belong, but I think the quality of the wines, Pascal's practices, and the impact he has had on and the respect he gets from many others puts them on the list.
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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#88 Post by Keith A k e r s »

Brad Baker wrote: January 12th, 2021, 8:46 am Howard,

If I had to rank the producers who I think are in the top tier in Champange they would be the six that follow. I enjoy wines from all of these producers, but not all of them are my personal favorites. My top tier is based on a mix of historical track record, respect for vision/practices, and personal preferences/tastes. This list isn't focused on the newest or hottest producers of the moment, but rather on a big picture across time covering both recent releases and wines from the past.

- Jacques Selosse
- Vilmart
- Pierre Peters
- Lilbert
- Egly-Ouriet
- Pascal Agrapart

Of these six, I think Selosse and Vilmart are a level above the others and would belong in the top tier of any Champagne ranking regardless of producer type or size. Agrapart is the sixth entry on my list and I struggled with whether they belong, but I think the quality of the wines, Pascal's practices, and the impact he has had on and the respect he gets from many others puts them on the list.

why on earth are you now making them even harder to find, lol!


actually I have a huge smile seeing them get the love they deserve. But, sssssshhhhhhhhhhhhhh

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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#89 Post by Brad Baker »

Keith A k e r s wrote: January 12th, 2021, 1:56 pm
- Lilbert

why on earth are you now making them even harder to find, lol!

actually I have a huge smile seeing them get the love they deserve. But, sssssshhhhhhhhhhhhhh
Yeah, I know. They were never easy to find (especially the vintage) and it is only going to get worse. Bertrand has no desire to expand things right now and demand is constantly rising for his wines. Fortunately, the pricing is still more than reasonable across the range.

Switching gears and continuing the exercise of putting producers in a tiered ranking, if I had a second tier it would consist of (in no particular order):

- Geoffroy
- Marc Hebrart
- A. Margaine
- Paul Dethune
- Franck Bonville
- Diebolt-Vallois

After the second tier, the groups get much larger and you can go out five, six, seven, etc... tiers if you want. In a quick exercise, I roughly grouped 75 different small producers into five tiers. This is without yet including a very large group of newer or emerging producers who show great promise, but don't have quite enough track record for me to feel comfortable fitting them in anywhere yet. In general, there are easily 200-300 quality, small Champagne producers out there.
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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#90 Post by D@vid Bu3ker »

Brad Baker wrote: January 12th, 2021, 2:27 pm
Keith A k e r s wrote: January 12th, 2021, 1:56 pm
- Lilbert

why on earth are you now making them even harder to find, lol!

actually I have a huge smile seeing them get the love they deserve. But, sssssshhhhhhhhhhhhhh
Yeah, I know. They were never easy to find (especially the vintage) and it is only going to get worse. Bertrand has no desire to expand things right now and demand is constantly rising for his wines. Fortunately, the pricing is still more than reasonable across the range.

Switching gears and continuing the exercise of putting producers in a tiered ranking, if I had a second tier it would consist of (in no particular order):

- Geoffroy
- Marc Hebrart
- A. Margaine
- Paul Dethune
- Franck Bonville
- Diebolt-Vallois

After the second tier, the groups get much larger and you can go out five, six, seven, etc... tiers if you want. In a quick exercise, I roughly grouped 75 different small producers into five tiers. This is without yet including a very large group of newer or emerging producers who show great promise, but don't have quite enough track record for me to feel comfortable fitting them in anywhere yet. In general, there are easily 200-300 quality, small Champagne producers out there.
Interesting Brad. I am surprised at some of the producers in your second tier. That's not because I do not find them worthy, but more that I thought some of them (e.g. Margaine - which I really love) more under the radar than would be required to get that level of recognition. My two surprises from your picks are the absences of Cedric Bouchard and Chartogne-Taillet, both of which are either in or knocking on the doors of the top tier for me.
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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#91 Post by Brad Baker »

David,

I have Cedric Bouchard and Chartogne-Taillet in my third tier. I love Bouchard's wines, but would like to see a bit more of a track record before ranking him any higher. Completely agree that he is knocking on the door of moving up. Five or six years ago, I would have expected to see Chartogne-Taillet move into the second tier of 'today', but I think the wines have regressed in quality and become much more variable lately. I love what Alexandre is doing and he is experimenting and trying new things (always thinking), but I think he may be pushing a bit too hard. The wines were a bit more clean and balanced in his earlier work IMO.
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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#92 Post by D@vid Bu3ker »

Brad Baker wrote: January 12th, 2021, 2:42 pm David,

I have Cedric Bouchard and Chartogne-Taillet in my third tier. I love Bouchard's wines, but would like to see a bit more of a track record before ranking him any higher. Completely agree that he is knocking on the door of moving up. Five or six years ago, I would have expected to see Chartogne-Taillet move into the second tier of 'today', but I think the wines have regressed in quality and become much more variable lately. I love what Alexandre is doing and he is experimenting and trying new things (always thinking), but I think he may be pushing a bit too hard. The wines were a bit more clean and balanced in his earlier work IMO.
Thanks for your perspective.
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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#93 Post by Vinod S. »

Would be interested to know who Dan imports, and first I’m hearing of Lilbert, will have to give them a shot. For me, I find Bonville Belle voyes top tier and highly rate the single vineyard wines Pierre Larmandier is making today. Personally I buy Selosse, Bouchard, and Collin when I can get an allocation. I think Peters and Egly Ouriet are up there with Selosse but don’t fit my personal preference to the same extent. I still think grower champagne is one of the great values in fine wine, went to an auction house tasting a few years ago where a 1990 Selosse and Peters Chetillons were far more memorable than a Leroy Volnay and DRC off-vintage bottle.
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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#94 Post by Howard Cooper »

Brad Baker wrote: January 12th, 2021, 8:46 am Howard,

If I had to rank the producers who I think are in the top tier in Champange they would be the six that follow. I enjoy wines from all of these producers, but not all of them are my personal favorites. My top tier is based on a mix of historical track record, respect for vision/practices, and personal preferences/tastes. This list isn't focused on the newest or hottest producers of the moment, but rather on a big picture across time covering both recent releases and wines from the past.

- Jacques Selosse
- Vilmart
- Pierre Peters
- Lilbert
- Egly-Ouriet
- Pascal Agrapart

Of these six, I think Selosse and Vilmart are a level above the others and would belong in the top tier of any Champagne ranking regardless of producer type or size. Agrapart is the sixth entry on my list and I struggled with whether they belong, but I think the quality of the wines, Pascal's practices, and the impact he has had on and the respect he gets from many others puts them on the list.
If we all had to guess which poster would have drunk the most of the 3000 growers in Champagne, I think Brad would be near the top of most people's lists.
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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#95 Post by Jayson Cohen »

Brad’s posts here help illustrate my and others’ point above how idiosyncratic this topic is, although it is also fun! I like Brad’s tiers. But missing from his top two tiers are not only Bouchard and Chartogne-Taillet as mentioned but also many other favorites of people with a different palate, like Bereche, Larmandier-Bernier, Lahaye, Collin, Marguet, Laval, Vouette, Rodez. And, by design I think, younger folks like Suenen and Dhondt.

No one has even mentioned many other high quality producers (forgive me if I missed it above), like the two Godme branches, Chiquet, Coutier, Aubry, Saves, ....

I have a question though for the group. Does ageability factor into ranking favorites for you? Because for many of these producers, I don’t have a lot of experience aging the wines. The exceptions (even there a small sample size) are Peters, Selosse, Vilmart, Gimmonet, and Chiquet. Mostly because they were in Terry’s book from back in the day (other than Selosse).

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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#96 Post by D@vid Bu3ker »

Jayson Cohen wrote: January 12th, 2021, 3:36 pm Brad’s posts here help illustrate my and others’ point above how idiosyncratic this topic is, although it is also fun! I like Brad’s tiers. But missing from his top two tiers are not only Bouchard and Chartogne-Taillet as mentioned but also many other favorites of people with a different palate, like Bereche, Larmandier-Bernier, Lahaye, Collin, Marguet, Laval, Vouette, Rodez. And, by design I think, younger folks like Suenen and Dhondt.

No one has even mentioned many other high quality producers (forgive me if I missed it above), like the two Godme branches, Chiquet, Coutier, Aubry, Saves, ....

I have a question though for the group. Does ageability factor into ranking favorites for you? Because for many of these producers, I don’t have a lot of experience aging the wines. The exceptions (even there a small sample size) are Peters, Selosse, Vilmart, Gimmonet, and Chiquet. Mostly because they were in Terry’s book from back in the day (other than Selosse).
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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#97 Post by Brian G r a f s t r o m »

Brad Baker wrote: January 12th, 2021, 2:27 pm
Keith A k e r s wrote: January 12th, 2021, 1:56 pm
- Lilbert

why on earth are you now making them even harder to find, lol!

actually I have a huge smile seeing them get the love they deserve. But, sssssshhhhhhhhhhhhhh
Yeah, I know. They were never easy to find (especially the vintage) and it is only going to get worse. Bertrand has no desire to expand things right now and demand is constantly rising for his wines. Fortunately, the pricing is still more than reasonable across the range.

Switching gears and continuing the exercise of putting producers in a tiered ranking, if I had a second tier it would consist of (in no particular order):

- Geoffroy
- Marc Hebrart
- A. Margaine
- Paul Dethune
- Franck Bonville
- Diebolt-Vallois

After the second tier, the groups get much larger and you can go out five, six, seven, etc... tiers if you want. In a quick exercise, I roughly grouped 75 different small producers into five tiers. This is without yet including a very large group of newer or emerging producers who show great promise, but don't have quite enough track record for me to feel comfortable fitting them in anywhere yet. In general, there are easily 200-300 quality, small Champagne producers out there.
Brad,

Thanks for chiming-in and contributing your thoughts in this thread --- I always enjoy seeing your input. [cheers.gif] I was surprised to see Hebrart on your list, particularly this high. As I've started to dabble in Champagne, I've noticed the bottles I enjoy most you, typically, score on the low side. So, as I love Hebrart's NV BdB Brut, I was surprised to see you rank them so highly --- a rare overlap, perhaps, between our preferences. With much curiosity, which of Hebrart's range most impresses you, and are they within the same stylistic framework as their NV BdB Brut?
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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#98 Post by Brad Baker »

Brian G r a f s t r o m wrote: January 12th, 2021, 11:37 pm
Brad,

Thanks for chiming-in and contributing your thoughts in this thread --- I always enjoy seeing your input. [cheers.gif] I was surprised to see Hebrart on your list, particularly this high. As I've started to dabble in Champagne, I've noticed the bottles I enjoy most you, typically, score on the low side. So, as I love Hebrart's NV BdB Brut, I was surprised to see you rank them so highly --- a rare overlap, perhaps, between our preferences. With much curiosity, which of Hebrart's range most impresses you, and are they within the same stylistic framework as their NV BdB Brut?
Brian,

I really enjoy Hebrart's BdB. It isn't often that you find a Blanc de Blancs that is so heavy in Mareuil-sur-Ay Chardonnay. The touches of Oiry and Chouilly add some lift and nicely balance things out. I don't think that there is any other wine in the range quite like this one in terms of expression just because Hebrart trends towards Pinot Noir, but the overall pure, fruity, fresh, and mineral kissed style does go through most of the wines.

I am a fan of Hebrart's entire range, but my year-after-year favorite is the Special Club (especially in magnum). Rive Gauche - Rive Droite is the most different wine in the range and in some vintages is spectacular, but the style of this wine (due to oak) stands out from the others. A number of newer wines that Hebrart has added have been spectacular so far. Mes Favorites is kind of like a NV Special Club made only from Mareuil-sur-Ay. Noces de Craie is a top example of a richer, fruity (darker fruit and dark berried) Ay Pinot Noir. He also has released a Chardonnay Coteaux Champenois from the Le Leon vineyard that straddles the border of Ay and Dizy (his vines are on the Dizy side). This still Chardonnay is one of the best I have tasted. It is young and shows oak, but also amazing balance, fruit, and ripeness for a still Chardonnay wine from Champagne.
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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#99 Post by Andrew M »

Brad Baker wrote: January 13th, 2021, 6:04 am
Brian G r a f s t r o m wrote: January 12th, 2021, 11:37 pm
Brad,

Thanks for chiming-in and contributing your thoughts in this thread --- I always enjoy seeing your input. [cheers.gif] I was surprised to see Hebrart on your list, particularly this high. As I've started to dabble in Champagne, I've noticed the bottles I enjoy most you, typically, score on the low side. So, as I love Hebrart's NV BdB Brut, I was surprised to see you rank them so highly --- a rare overlap, perhaps, between our preferences. With much curiosity, which of Hebrart's range most impresses you, and are they within the same stylistic framework as their NV BdB Brut?
Brian,

I really enjoy Hebrart's BdB. It isn't often that you find a Blanc de Blancs that is so heavy in Mareuil-sur-Ay Chardonnay. The touches of Oiry and Chouilly add some lift and nicely balance things out. I don't think that there is any other wine in the range quite like this one in terms of expression just because Hebrart trends towards Pinot Noir, but the overall pure, fruity, fresh, and mineral kissed style does go through most of the wines.

I am a fan of Hebrart's entire range, but my year-after-year favorite is the Special Club (especially in magnum). Rive Gauche - Rive Droite is the most different wine in the range and in some vintages is spectacular, but the style of this wine (due to oak) stands out from the others. A number of newer wines that Hebrart has added have been spectacular so far. Mes Favorites is kind of like a NV Special Club made only from Mareuil-sur-Ay. Noces de Craie is a top example of a richer, fruity (darker fruit and dark berried) Ay Pinot Noir. He also has released a Chardonnay Coteaux Champenois from the Le Leon vineyard that straddles the border of Ay and Dizy (his vines are on the Dizy side). This still Chardonnay is one of the best I have tasted. It is young and shows oak, but also amazing balance, fruit, and ripeness for a still Chardonnay wine from Champagne.
Brad, I've been a buyer of Hebrart up and down the range for a few years now. Had a wonderful visit there in 2019 - the Coteaux Champenois was my wife's favorite tasting, we brought home a bottle!

For whatever reason I'm not a big fan of the NV wines (including Mes Favorites). The RGRD is a favorite of mine across the whole region, and I like the Special Club and Noces de Craie quite a bit too. I'm wondering if you know the impact of these newer releases on their production. Are they buying more fruit, leasing more vineyard parcels, whatever. I would think some of the fruit that used to go into the Special Club now goes into other bottlings. And I know some producers no longer treat their Special Club as their tete de cuvee, Hebrart seeming like an obvious one. I wonder if the quality of the other bottlings has devalued the SC a bit, both in terms of quality and market appeal. CT notes for the 2015 would seem to imply that.
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Brian G r a f s t r o m
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Re: Classifying farmer fizz

#100 Post by Brian G r a f s t r o m »

Thanks, Brad. Sounds like a few exciting options from the Hebrart stable! I've looked at, but never actually purchased, the Special Club --- looks like that needs to change. [cheers.gif]
“All these characters spend their time explaining themselves, and happily recognizing that they hold the same opinions … how important they consider it to think the same things all together.” --- A.R.

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