Bernard Billaud
Photo Credit: Stephen Tanzer
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.Always one of my favorite sources for pure, minerally, elegant Chablis made in stainless steel, Billaud-Simon has produced a very precise set of 2004s."We can compare this vintage to 1998," Samuel Billaud told me."It possesses good minerality; the wines are strict and incisive and will be very good with time in bottle.But they are not big and enveloping wines."Billaud was one of several producers who told me that because he carried out a longer-than-average debourbage in 2004, the sugar fermentations were more difficult, as many of the wild yeasts that came in on the fruit were left behind during the settling of the juice prior to fermentation.The 2004 grand crus here will not be bottled until next May.Billaud told me that he was tempted to bottle the 2003s earlier than normal, in November of last year, but ultimately waited; the last of the grand crus were only bottled a few weeks before my visit.The 2003s clarified well, noted Billaud, and the crus were not filtered.Several of these wines are surprisingly fresh and minerally for the year.(Langdon-Shiverick, Cleveland, OH)

2004 Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis

Citrus skin and hints of exotic fruit on the nose. Juicy, lean and intenselyflavored, finishing with good fruit and grip.

85-87

2004 Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Tete d'Or

Bracing aromas of grapefruit, lemon and minerals. Denser and richer than the basic village wine, with a peppery complexity. Finishes with very good length. A sample from demi-muid (to comprise 20% of the ultimate blend): Very pale color. Spicy nose. More imploded on the palate, with brisk grapefruit and mineral flavors conveying a sense of energy, as well as an impression of higher acidity. This has absorbed the oak very well.

86-89

2004 Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Les Vaillons

(the alcoholic fermentation was quite long, noted Billaud) Pale, green-tinged color. Vibrant aromas of white grapefruit, licorice, spices and fresh herbs. Supple, fresh and musky, with herbalflavors along with a vegetal whiff of asparagus. Not a great showing today, but certainly lively and persistent.

85-88?

2004 Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Mont de Milieu

Pale green-tinged color. Subtle aromas of lime, powdered stone and mint. Juicy, lean and a bit tight, with good but not outstanding concentration. In a rather strict style, but pure and sharply focused. Finishes with white grapefruit and herbs. From another stainless steel tank: Pure grapefruit and spices on the nose. Lean and bright, with notes of anise and mint. Finishes with good cut.

87-89

2004 Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Montee de Tonnerre

From 40-year-old vines: Very pure, fresh aromas of grapefruit, minerals, chalk dust and peppery spices. Dense, sweet and pure; a step up intexture from the foregoing samples. Complex, pureflavors of grapefruit, minerals, herbs and pepper. From 80-year-old massa le vines, the estate's oldest: Very pure nose dominated by flint and smoke.Dense, fat and concentrated, with ripe grapefruit complicated by herbs and pepper. Wonderfully rich and long. This is grand cru quality. The two major components of this wine will not be blended until next January, in advance of a March bottling.

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2004 Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Vaudesir

Pale green-tinged yellow. Aromas of lime, lemon, licorice and fresh herbs. Fat, layered and sweet, with pepper and spice notes. Distinctly more accessible today and easier to taste than the comparatively backward Montee de Tonnerre, and not quite as long on the aftertaste. These vines are planted in rather rich soil in a small vale within this grand cru.

89-91

2004 Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Les Preuses

(from a selection massale planted in the 1950s, whereas the Vaudesir is a clonal selection averaging about 25 years of age) Pale yellow. Pristine, high-pitched aromas of lemon, quinine and aromatic oils. Dense, concentrated and fat, with serious weight in the mouth and an impressively glyceraltexture. flavor of sweet lemon tart. Finishes very long, with subtle mountingflavor.

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2004 Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Les Clos

(a massa le selection) Rather raw, peppery aromas of pineapple and silex, with a suggestion of high-pitched red berries; extremely unevolved. The richest and densest of these 2004s, with concentrated flavors of citrus fruit, minerals and powdered stone.The very long, palate-staining finish features citrus skin and crushed stone. This is about length more than sheer size, while today it's the opposite for the Preuses. Offers exciting potential for the vintage. (Billaud-Simon's Les Blanchots Vieilles Vignes was still finishing its alcoholic fermentation in barrel.)

92-94

2003 Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis

($27; bottled in July of 2004) Somewhat diffuse aromas of pear and honey. Soft and round, with moderate ripeness but a hint of herbaceousness. Not bad.

85

2003 Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Tete d'Or

($30; 10% aged in barrel, the rest in tank) Very ripe pear and peach aromas, with an exotic aspect. Fat and rich, with high-toned, very ripeflavors of stone fruits. A bit aggressive on the end, but finishes with good persistence.

86

2003 Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Les Vaillons

($40; bottled in February) Pale yellow. Muted, low-toned nose hints at pear. Fat and sweet but showing limited complexity. Offers more shape than the Tete d'Or but finishes with a trace of alcoholic bitterness. Like so many 2003s, this does not leave the palate feeling refreshed, like the classic Chablis vintages.

86

2003 Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Mont de Milieu

($41; from a yield of just 25 hectoliters per hectare) Pale yellow. Sweet peach and honey aromas are fresher than those of the Vaillons. Fat, sweet and layered, with a touch of minerality freshening the wine's fruit. Finishes with good bite and grip. At once firmer and fresher wine, and much less obviously warm on the back.

88

2003 Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Montee de Tonnerre

($48) Complex nose melds sweet stone fruits, acacia flower, herbs and minerals. Densely packed, fresh and lively, with crisp citrus and metallic notes. Quite tight in the middle, with an impression of healthy acidity. The wine's distinctly taut finish suggests it needs a good four or five years of patience.

88(+?)

2003 Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Mont de Milieu Vieilles Vignes

($48; half of this cuvee was aged in barrels, none new) Bright pale yellow. Rather idiosyncratic aromas of eucalyptus and sweet vanillin oak. Round, spicy and sweet, with a concentrated citrusflavors and nicely integrated acidity. The oaky sweetness serves to extend the wine's finish.

88

2003 Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Vaudesir

($95; bottled in May of this year, with the other grand crus) Bright, pale color. Pure, vibrant aromas of citrus skin and powdered stone. Sweet, dense and fresh, with livelyflavors of lemon and quinine. This is already quite explosive and tasty. Not the last word in complexity but finishes nicely tight and persistent.

90

2003 Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Les Preuses

($107; the crop level here was just 19 hectoliters per hectare, according to Billaud) Aromas of pineapple, crystallized grapefruit, wet chalk and peppery herbs. Dense, sweet and shapely, with superconcentrated grapefruit and underripe pineappleflavors of impressive depth. Long and gripping for 2003, with little sign of finishing heat. This seemed much more exotic in tank a year ago.

91(+?)

2003 Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Les Clos

($110; the crop level here and in the Blanchots was barely 15 hectoliters per hectare) Pure, vibrant aromas of white pepper, snap pea, ginger and crushed stone. Fat, dense and rich; quite dry and pure but not at all hard. Hints at the complexity to come but not yet expressive. The longest of these 2003s, finishing dry, minerally and a bit youthfully bitter-edged. This is more affected by the recent bottling than the other grand crus, notes Billaud. A knockout for the vintage, but I wouldn't think about opening a bottle for at least a year or two.

92(+?)

2003 Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Les Blanchots Vieilles Vignes

($126; aged entirely in barriques, none new) Pale, bright yellow. Exotic peach and honey aromas reminded me of a late-harvest wine. Big, round, dry, rich and a bit blowsy; much more in the style of the vintage than the Preuses and Clos. Full-blownflavors of vanilla, nuts, honey and truffle. Finishes soft, rich and warm, with a distinct suggestion of surmaturiteHalf of the grapes in Blanchots were virtually burned black and had to be eliminated, noted Billaud. Production was just a barrel and a half, compared to a normal five. I'd like to retaste this in six months.

89(+?)?
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