Profile: Domaine Samuel Billaud


Tasted in Chablis with Samuel Billaud, 19 January 2017.

Domaine Samuel Billaud
8 Boulevard Tacussel
89800 Chablis
Tel: +33 6 37 52 50 32

Samuel Billaud is a name that has a certain familiarity – Samuel being part of the family behind Billaud-Simon, the famous Chablis domaine that was purchased by Faiveley in 2014. It is fair to say that Samuel didn’t get on so well with ‘the other half’ so I expect he was quite happy when Faiveley finally stepped in, because as part of the deal, Samuel received 4 hectares of vines from the full range of appellations.

Samuel had built up his brand with purchased grapes and wine while waiting in the wings for this transaction. Now he is producing a little more than 110,000 bottles per year – and as he likes to point out – everything by gravity – no pumps! Samuel has a fabulous location close to the Mairie of Chablis, all recently renovated, with 12-13th century cellars.

Currently about 80% of the production is exported, with the UK being the most important market.

Samuel on 2016:
2016 was complicated due to two climatic incidents; a hard frost, particularly to the east of Chablis that caused considerable damage due to a temperature of about -5°C. The second incident was the hail that hit the north, north-west, then another hail, one month after the frost that basically destroyed a lot of the south, such as Préhy. Of course there was a lot of rain in the weeks that followed which meant it was almost impossible to keep up with the mildew – but then the canicule (heat wave). Really I could call it an ‘année noir’ – a black year. You have to look almost to the 1800s for something so damaging. Pruning is very difficult, because not all baguettes are fertile – so let’s seen. For me it was probably about a half a harvest. But the quality of the grapes is great, there’s a very nice balance waiting.

The wines…

The 15s were ‘half-bottled’ when I visited. This is easily my most important ‘discovery’ of the year and quite easily one of the top half-dozen domaines (from almost 60!) that I visited on my trip. Bravo!

2015 Petit Chablis Sur Les Clos
Was bottled in September
Yellow fruit accented with minerality – this is very attractive. Round, a little richness of flavour, behind there’s a very nice line of flavour and an excellent balance. Long, less overtly mineral than some, but an absolutely delicious wine of both power and length too.
2015 Chablis
Three parcels, two on the left bank. 30-year-old vines opposite Vosgros on Kimmerigian. One below Montée de Tonnerre, all three separately vinified, and normally assembled one month before bottling.
A nose of width, more modest depth, faintly saline but a little tight. Fine volume, much more citrus, fine melting flavour, complexity of fruit, great minerality and salinity too. This has everything you could wish from a villages Chablis – bravo!
2015 Chablis 1er Vaillons Vieilles-Vignes
More than 60 year-old vines in the centre of Vaillons. 12-13 months elevage, no oak for now.
Also just a little tight but a good width of rather mineral aroma. Hmm, very lovely in the mouth, melting, mineral, delicate flavours of purity. Bravo again, long finishing, beautiful citrus notes long into the finish…

Right bank:

2015 Chablis 1er Fourneaux
Also all tank elevage.
Agrume – a citrus nose, very faintly saline. Wide, mineral, melting, easier but still with a mineral rigour. Holds quite a good volume of finishing flavour. This is very tasty wine again – excellent…

2015 Chablis 1er Mont de Milieu
3 heights of vines, all harvested by hand and vinified together as they are small parcels. 20% in barrels of 400 l.
A fine, fresh, citrus nose the oak is invisible for now. More gas, melting flavour, really a super agrume flavour that’s dynamic on the palate – again no oak flavour. Simply delicious wine. Bravo!

2015 Chablis 1er Montée de Tonnerre
2 parcels: the top of Chapelots, other at the top of the triangle. 20% in barrel same as the last – bottled in November.
A fine, fresh, wide, citrus nose – again no trace of the barrels. Round, fresh here with an extra richness of texture and also the oak adding some complexity to the flavour. Just a suggestion of opulence to this very fine flavour and a touch of rigour in the minerality. A super combination that is simply excellent, the last, long flavours tenaciously keep hold of some citrus aspects too.

2015 Chablis 1er Séchets Vieilles-Vignes
More than 70 years old vines from Samuel’s great-grandmother – ‘The most mineral part of Vaillons.’ All tank elevage. Still on lees like the Mont de Milieu, bottling likely in February.
Crystalline, purity of aroma. Beautiful. A little gas. Good volume, supple but citrus-infused mineral flavour. Fine intensity too. Extra wide, more saline, beautifully finishing. Wow!

All the grand crus saw 400 litre barrels for 12 months and 6 months on their lees in tank. Bottling is planned for March:

2015 Chablis Bougros
A vibrant and beautiful nose – drink me – it says! Super fresh, not a rich or fat grand cru, but packed with effervescent flavour. This is becoming easily one of my top three visits of this campaign. Extra finishing width, extra complexity – class!
2015 Chablis Blanchots
Vines about 35 years-old, some 228 l barrels in elevage here.
A deeper aromatic, more density. In the mouth still completely fresh and effervescent. Super complex, changing all the time. Actually quite hard to separate these two GCs – the nose is more open on the first, this has a little more finishing density. Also great wine!
2015 Chablis Les Preuses
Vines older than 60 on the higher part of Preuses. 400 litre barrels and tank elevage.
Yellow fruit, with some creamy oak impression – a growing freshness of fruit from the core. Super direct – wow! Again effervescent, dynamic wine – hyper-mineral. Long, long, long, with a modest coating of oak flavour today. Great classic Chablis in the making.
2015 Chablis Vaudesir
Two parcels east and west, one next to Moutonne, the next close to Valmur. ‘The two sides bring a special balance.’
Hmm, a vibrant minerality here – super inviting. A supple wine, more silky and fine in texture – intense in the middle, a growing intensity. There is more overt complexity here, less overt power in delivery. Brilliant wine that perhaps I’d serve this before the previous wine, but this is more composed and complex – it is a beauty – very simple!
2015 Chablis Valmur
A nose that is also vibrant and a little floral in this case, just a little less overt than the last two or three. A little fuller volume gain, a hint of gas, really a slowly changing wine, finely complex, and showing beautiful flavours – its great – with more time it will be even better. Super texture – but be patient – it will be gorgeous!

2015 Chablis Les Clos
‘We put a team together quickly and cut all the parcels with hail on the third – only 36 hours later.’ From high up in the vineyard.
Less open, a little more dense, yet a wide if subtle complexity of aroma too. This has volume, silk too, but it’s far from a rich wine – hardly any of the oak is evident, but the intensity is super – the wine then takes on a larger volume after swallowing, all the time very mineral. This is showing so little, yet delivering so much. This could be an astounding bottle in 5 years time. Fingers crossed!

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