An icon of the Chablis region, Domaine Billaud-Simon owns a rich history of wine production dating back to 1815. It was in this year that Charles Louis Noël Billaud newly returned from the Napoleonic Wars, planted vines on his family land, thus signalling the beginning of an endeavour that would go on to craft wines symbolising the unique style of Chablis.
The holdings of Domaine Billaud were augmented in the 1930s by the marriage of Jean Billaud to Renée Simon. The estate of the newly named Domaine Billaud-Simon was then passed to successive generations and was managed, until very recently, by Jean’s son Bernard and his nephew Samuel. Under the care of Bernard and Samuel, the estate has come to represent, in the words of esteemed critic Hugh Johnson, wines of “steely brilliance”. With a signature of power and intensity framed by stylish restraint, the wines of Domaine Billaud-Simon have attained cult status among wine lovers across the globe.
Sitting on the edge of the village of Chablis, the estate is flanked by the Grand Cru climats of the region on the western banks of the Serein River, within which Domaine Billaud-Simon has holdings in four – Blanchot, Les Clos, Vaudésir and Les Preuses. Completing the 20-hectare portfolio are vines in the Premier Crus of Mont de Milieu, Montée de Tonnerre, Fourcharme and on the eastern banks of the river Serein, Vaillons. In addition to Grand Cru and Premier Cru expressions the domaine also releases wines from Petit Chablis and Chablis, including the highly regarded Chablis Tête d’Or.
The style of Domaine Billaud-Simon reflects a unique ability to create wines that are delicious when young, yet capable of ageing magnificently. In the early 1990s, when Bernard Billaud took over the family business, the winery was completely overhauled. A pneumatic press was installed and modern fermentation equipment purchased. Whilst oak is traditionally eschewed in the production of wines in the region and indeed within the portfolio of Domaine Billaud-Simon, there are notable exceptions. The Chablis Tête d’Or and the Mont de Milieu are partly vinified in old wood and the Blanchots is vinified entirely in oak. Lees ageing is also used to enhance the rich texture of the wines.
In the summer of 2014 a change of ownership heralded a new era for the domaine. Entering the region for the first time, Domaine Faiveley purchased the estate resulting in Bernard Billaud taking up retirement and Samuel Billaud establishing his own micro-négociant business. Keenly aware of the responsibility inherited with these great wines, Erwan Faiveley stated that “In the great tradition of Bernard Billaud, we will continue to focus on the outstanding characteristics coming from the Kimmeridgean terroirs of Chablis, to create focused, precisely-vinified, mineral-driven wine.”
The commitment to continue the tradition of Billaud-Simon is further evidenced by respected Burgundy expert Bill Nanson of The Burgundy Report and his generous use of superlatives including “Yum!” “Super!” and “Excellent!” when reviewing the wines from 2015. Furthermore, renowned critic Robert Parker described the wines of 2014 as a “clutch of very fine wines that are certainly worth seeking out”. The next stage for this iconic producer is clearly in very good hands.
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