Stephen’s Pick: 2015 Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis, Tete d’Or, $32.00

Ah, the elegance and purity of a good Chablis! Chablis is the northernmost Burgundian region, therefore wines produced there are technically white Burgundy.  While they are both Chardonnay based, the comparison stops right there. The weather in Chablis tends to be cool, rainy, and sometimes downright miserable. The consequent result of this climate is a white wine known for its austerity and unadorned, honest integrity. One must also mention the abundant limestone chalkiness of the stony soils that are nearly always damp and cold. Because of the tendency of this region to experience sudden drops in temperature, wine-makers in Chablis will frequently employ extravagant techniques to prevent the delicate Chardonnay grapes from freezing. Slow-burning chaufferettes (little stoves) are placed between rows in an effort to minimize the damage caused by freezing conditions. Additionally, Chablis producers will employ the “water aspersion method” where vines are deliberately sprayed with water at critical moments in order to develop a thin coating of ice, which is designed to insulate them against any further drops in temperature. These are merely two of many examples of intensive care given to grapes grown in a region that has produced some of the world’s finest wines since the 11th Century! 

To present an accurate description of the experience of enjoying a good Chablis, think of the feeling you get when you are indoors, curled up with a good book, comfortably reading and deeply engaged—while outside, it is cold, rainy, and miserable. Think of the blissful contrast of cold misery outside combined with the comfort and intellectual stimulation reading indoors. Such are the positive attributes of a great Chablis—cool, pure simplicity, drizzling with minerality and an honest freshness that reminds us that all is well, in spite of the chaotic harshness of the outside world. If a buttery, voluptuous California Chardonnay is Marilyn Monroe, then Chablis is Grace Kelly in a grey flannel suit with a pure-white linen blouse and sterling silver accessories. Chablis is the “Hitchcock Blonde” of wines!

Domaine Billaud-Simon’s Chablis Tete d’Or 2015 is a reasonably priced, excellent Chablis that delights the drinker with everything a good Chablis should be. Fermented in stainless steel, then aged in 80 percent stainless, and 20 percent oak for added texture—it’s refreshing flavor and faint traces of oak and butter, enable it to stand proudly with head held high among all the other great wines from this region.  The nose offers subtle citrus and white flowers; the palate is smooth and rich. It is perfectly balanced, lively yet discreet, slightly fruity yet refined, offering steely minerality without being too dry. For those of you that have yet to enjoy Chablis, this is an inexpensive, tremendous credit to one of France’s most coveted and virtuous wines. Drink now and pair beautifully with halibut, monkfish, cod, or even chicken-salad.