“Samuel Billaud is one of those winemakers who epitomizes great, traditional Chablis. If a neophyte demanded to know exactly what a Chablis ought to be, then I might well choose one of Samuel’s wines, possibly also one of Didier Picq at Domaine Gilbert Picq. Visiting both on the same day, I noticed a common approach between those winemakers: terroir-driven wines, what you might call a “minimalist” style that is paradoxically packed to the rafters with intensity. Of course, the internecine family fallout, whereby his uncle, Bernard Billaud, sold Domaine Billaud-Simon from under his feet to Faiveley, has grabbed the headlines and shrouded Samuel’s winemaking future in doubt. (On this note, I do hope that Faiveley phase out the name of the winery – I cannot be the only one who finds it very confusing.) A couple of winemakers expressed sadness that they could not have sat down and come to some agreement, however, what’s done is done. And rather than stalling Samuel’s winemaking career, in hindsight, this considerable setback may well be seen as the impetus for a new direction. “I have around 4 hectares of vine of my own now,” Samuel told me at his temporary winery down in the village of La Chapelle-Vaupelteigne, “plus grapes that I purchase. We are constructing a new chai at the moment where we were able to vinify the 2014. We’ve bought all the equipment. We are hoping it will all be finished by September 1. It’s a bit ‘cozy’ in this facility.” I asked him about the two vintages that I tasted: the bottled 2013s and the 2014 from vat. “The 2013s are concentrated. It was a sunny vintage, a small harvest cropped at around 25 hectoliters per hectare from September 17, picking over the following ten days. It is about richness and fruit with less mineral and less typicity than 2014.” Like others, it is the range of nascent 2014s that excites Samuel and they already come across as energetic, mineral-rich, precise Chablis that are going to give immense pleasure to Chablis-lovers who appreciate that steely, tensile style. There is a purity in Samuel Billaud’s 2014s that I think was denied in the 2013s because of their richness. Once Samuel has moved into his new winery in Chablis, sorted out his own vineyard holdings, I think we should see him right at the top of Chablis producers alongside the likes of Raveneau and Vincent Dauvissat. After all he’s suffered, you might say he deserves it, but that would be ignoring the sheer quality of his wines.”
Here’s the full grid of press scores:
WA= Wine Advocate
2014 Samuel Billaud Chablis AC 88-91 BH 90 WA 90-92 VN
2014 Samuel Billaud Chablis 1er Cru Fourneaux 90-93 BH 90-92 WA 90-93 VN
2014 Samuel Billaud Chablis 1er Cru Vaillons 90-92 BH not rated WA 90-93 VN
2014 Samuel Billaud Chablis 1er Cru Montee du Tonnerre 91-91 BH 92-94 WA 92-94 VN
2014 Samuel Billaud Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses- Limited Please Inquire 92-94 BH 92-94 WA 92-94 VN
2014 Samuel Billaud Chablis Grand Cru Vaudesir- Limited Please Inquire 92-94 BH 94-96 WA 90-93 VN
2014 Samuel Billaud Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos- Limited Please Inquire 91-94 BH 93-95 WA 91-92 VN
Samuel Billaud - A Maverick with Pedigree in Chablis
“We should see him...at the top of Chablis producers alongside...Raveneau and Vincent Dauvissat.” – Neal Martin, Wine Advocate, 10/15/13
For those of you who love the crisp, chalky salinity of fine Chablis, the name Billaud should ring a few bells. Domaine Billaud-Simon, currently under the direction of Bernard Billaud, has been a powerhouse in old school Chablisienne quality for two centuries now, since 1815. Samuel, nephew of Bernard, began making the wines at Billaud-Simon some twenty years ago and for two decades all was well enough. However, as is so often the case with large personalities, family tensions flared due to differing opinions about vinification. There was a schism and in 2009 Samuel founded his fledgling, super-hot, micro-négoce project, Domaine Samuel Billaud.
Due to his deep roots in Chablis, Samuel is able to source grapes from some of the finest, most well-established growers in both premier and grand cru terroirs Currently, as a result of the resolution of a law suit, combied with the sale of the Domaine, Samuel was able to acquire some vines of his own, and is now branching out with other premier and grand cru parcels. Premier and Grand Cru sees about 15% new wood in the form of large 450 and 600 L barrels, which offsets any overt “oakiness.” The rest is fermented in small stainless steel tank.
The resulting range, from AC to Grand Cru, are layered wines rife with crunchy oyster shell and silex, and exhibit a range of flavor profiles from licorice to white peach to toasty baguette. This is top quality Chablis from a rising star producer – for white Burgundy lovers, these are not to be missed.