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This is the latest vintage of an amazing Chablis from a top-quality producer. The palate is both crisp and vivacious whilst offering something soft; rather like a gooseberry fool. As you might expect from a premier cru, there's more to discover in the way of mineral, floral and fruit aromas. Versatile with food, Billaud-Simon even suggest you try it with lavender-spiked lamb or figs grilled with honey.
, Jan 2014, 91
There is a mildly exotic element to the otherwise very fresh aromas that blend moderate Chablis character together with notes of white flowers and pear. The seductive and caressing medium-bodied flavors possess fine mid-palate concentration and ample minerality that flows through to the saline, balanced, long and solidly complex finish. Good juice.
Stephen Tanzer's IWC
, Jan 2014, 89(+?)
Pale yellow. Reticent aromas of lemon, underripe pineapple and powdered stone. Supple on entry, then a bit aggressive in the middle; no shortage of energy to the floral and citrus flavors but comes across as less precise than the Tete d'Or. Needs a year or two to sort itself out.
, Dec 2069, 16.5
Riper smelling than the Tête d'Or and certainly more intense citrus, though it is sinewy rather than rich. All present and correct. (JH)
, Aug 2014, 90
The 2012 Chablis 1er Cru Les Vaillons comes from 3.55 hectares of 30-year-old vines cropped at 58 hectoliters per hectare and sees 15 months in stainless steel. It has a very elegant and feminine bouquet with scents of orange zest, dried apricot and a hint of honey. The palate is well-balanced with that orange zest embroidered from start to finish. Linear, and focused, his is a very fine Vaillons. Drink now-2020.
It is confusing having both a Samuel Billaud and a Billaud-Simon producing wines in Chablis, but unfortunately that is the case while the intra-family dispute goes on. One hopes it is resolved sooner rather than later. Charles Louis Noel Billaud established the estate in 1815, thereby making it one of the forefathers of the region. Bernard Billaud returned to the domaine in 1991, whereupon he seized the opportunity to ratchet up the quality by installing a pneumatic press and stainless steel tanks. I have tasted the wines regularly here in the UK and they have always been impressive. For sure, the 2012s were perhaps a little more inconsistent due to the challenges of the growing season. But the grand crus certainly deliver where it matters – in the glass – while I appreciate the premier crus remaining true to their respective terroirs.
Post-script: As this report went to print, news filtered through with regard to the sale of Domaine Billaud-Simon to Maison Faiveley, giving them a strong foothold in the region. How this will impact Samuel Billaud remains to be seen, though it clearly thwarts any hopes of him returning to farming the vines that he once tended (wouldn’t it be a twist if Faiveley subsequently appointed him winemaker!). Exact details are yet to emerge, but hopefully all parties can move forward.
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