There are two compelling reasons why you should track down and drink this wine:
- It is a tremendously good value wine that offers depth, intrigue and tons of flavour at a bargain price.
- It may give you superpowers. Or radiation poisoning. Or both. It’s tough to predict.
You see, Andre Aubert’s Le Devoy comes from the bucolic Grignan-Les-Adhemar region in France’s Southern Rhone valley. Before Grignan-Les-Adhemar adopted its almost-impossibly-French appellation name in 2010, it was previously known as the AOC region of Coteaux de Tricastin, named for the French city of Tricastin found within its borders. Unfortunately for Tricastin, on top of vineyards, it was also home to a series of 4 nuclear reactors, and unfortunately for the nuclear reactors, in 2008 this happened:
Shortly after this questionable incident, a number of employees at the Tricastin plant were exposed to radioactive particles that escaped from a reactor pipe that was supposed to be shut down. Then a 3 year-old previously-unnoticed nuclear waste leak led to another spill. Not surprisingly, these terrifying events did little to draw the public towards bottles of wine with “Tricastin” plastered all over their labels, so the growers there petitioned France’s governing wine body to let them change the name of their region, and Grignan-Les-Adhemar (which translates to “Land of the Geiger Counters”) was born. I have never before heard of a French wine appellation changing its name, especially just so that it could escape from bad PR, but as a result, Le Devoy will now forever be known to me as “nuclear wine”.
But it’s good! Really! You should buy it!
Radiation aside, this bottle is a classic Rhone blend of 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 10% Carignan (and 0.000001% unstable uranium isotopes. OK, last one, I swear.). Grignan-Les-Adhemar is located on the northern edge of the southern half of the Rhone Valley, almost due north of the much-more-illustrious Chateauneuf-de-Pape, and its wines bear a clear resemblance to its brand-name neighbour. Since G-L-A appears to consumers to be a brand new appellation, and since it has had less than two vintages to build up any market cachet, its offerings are priced to sell and can be significantly underpriced and undervalued in relation to their quality. Le Devoy is a case in point: I grabbed this bottle at Vine Arts for $15-$16, and I’ve previously seen it at Ferocious Grape for a similar price, but it drinks like something that costs more than twice as much and keeps me coming back to buy more. It would be my house wine if I could keep myself from blurting out the radiation story every time I see it or bring it up in conversation.
The first thing that gets your attention about Le Devoy is its vivid translucent purple colour, which is striking enough to hold the eye but just transparent enough to see right through, mostly thanks to the thin skins of the Grenache grape — thinner skins = less pigment in the wine = more transparent colour. The nose is a combination of sweet red fruits (cherry, raspberry) and pepper, highlighted with dense dark chocolate, a sort of brambly herbaceousness, a linament/eucalyptus undertone and a general smokiness permeating the whole thing. My wife sniffed carefully and declared it “mellow and thick”, which it is: substantial yet unintimidating. This theme of depth without pretense continued on the palate, where the wine was medium-bodied but still mouthfilling, with understated acidity and deft tannin quietly providing structure while remaining well in the background, and with a pleasant heat from the alcohol (14%) lingering long into the finish. This is a fireside wine, but one that’s light and agile enough to be enjoyed almost anywhere, and with almost anything (though if you’re looking for a dream pairing, Le Devoy with some BBQ rotisserie chicken would be absolutely ludicrous…remember this if you’re at Charcut, where this bottle is currently on the wine list and where rotisseried poultry abounds). There are darker fruits on the tongue than on the nose, blackberry and black cherry to go along with tobacco, leather, coffee grounds and a streak of earthy, dusty undergrowth that makes the whole thing just a little unkempt. It’s wild but still wholesome, a choirboy with a mohawk, and it keeps you dipping into your glass, scarcely believing that wine like this can cost this little.
I first came across this bottle when trying to choose between a series of wines to be served at my good friends’ wedding. It immediately stopped all of us in our tracks: ”Oh my god, what IS this?” Without question, it’s an astonishing value for less than $20, and when combined with its potential for causing unpredictable genetic mutations and/or potentially fatal disease, it’s a surefire winner. It ended up proudly gracing the reception tables of my friends’ big day, and it will co-star in my cellar until I can’t find it anymore. All jokes aside, this is one $15 bottle that will not disappoint. Tricastin: not just about meltdowns anymore!
$15 to $20 CDN