Domaine Billaud-Simon was founded in 1815 by Charles Louis Noël Billaud upon his return from the Napoleonic Wars. He planted vines on his family holdings, which were later expanded through the marriage of his relative Jean Billaud to Renée Simon in the 1930s. Situated behind high walls near the river Serein, the winery is now helmed by Jean’s son, Bernard. Known as one of the top producers in Chablis, Billaud Simon’s 20 hectares include vineyards in 4 of the 7 Grand Crus: Blanchots, Les Clos, Les Preuses, and Vaudésir, and four leading Premier Crus: Fourchaume, Mont de Milieu, Montée de Tonnerre, and Vaillons. They also make AC Chablis of exclusively from estate fruit in the Kimmeridgean soils surrounding their 1er and Grand Cru vineyards.
At the age of 18, Bernard Billaud left Chablis for Paris to study fine art. He made a successful career in communications consulting, while continuing to find time for his artistic pursuits of painting, sculpture and jazz music. Eventually however the family biz siren song lured him back to Chablis in 1991 where he made it his mission to ratchet up the quality of the wine. He wanted to produce classically styled, ethereal Chablis of delicacy.
Bernard completely overhauled the winery at Billaud-Simon, installing a pneumatic press, all new tanks, and the most modern fermentation equipment available. Although they now have state of the art technology, they maintain an important balance with traditional practices. This includes the use natural yeast for fermentation, and natural advancement into malo. Most wines are vinified and matured in stainless and don’t see any wood. There are two exceptions: Premier Cru Mont de Milieu Vieilles Vignes and Grand Cru Blanchots Vieilles Vignes, which each see some large oak. Light fining and filtration result in Chablis of elegance, purity, balance and freshness. They are delicious when young, and even more beautiful with age.
The source of the most racy, light and tactile, yet uniquely complex Chardonnay, Chablis, while considered part of Burgundy, actually reaches far past the most northern stretch of the Côte d’Or proper. Its vineyards cover hillsides surrounding the small village of Chablis about 100 miles north of Dijon, making it actually closer to Champagne than to Burgundy. Champagne and Chablis have a unique soil type in common called Kimmeridgian, which isn’t found anywhere else in the world except southern England. A 180 million year-old geologic formation of decomposed clay and limestone, containing tiny fossilized oyster shells, spans from the Dorset village of Kimmeridge in southern England all the way down through Champagne, and to the soils of Chablis. This soil type produces wines full of structure, austerity, minerality, salinity and finesse.
Chablis Grands Crus vineyards are all located at ideal elevations and exposition on the acclaimed Kimmeridgian soil, an ancient clay-limestone soil that lends intensity and finesse to its wines. The vineyards outside of Grands Crus are Premiers Crus, and outlying from those is Petit Chablis. Chablis Grand Cru, as well as most Premier Cru Chablis, can age for many years.
One of the most popular and versatile white wine grapes, Chardonnay offers a wide range of flavors and styles depending on where it is grown and how it is made. While it tends to flourish in most environments, Chardonnay from its Burgundian homeland produces some of the most remarkable and longest lived examples. California produces both oaky, buttery styles and leaner, European-inspired wines. Somm Secret—The Burgundian subregion of Chablis, while typically using older oak barrels, produces a bright style similar to the unoaked style. Anyone who doesn't like oaky Chardonnay would likely enjoy Chablis.