Wine Review: 2010 Domaines Andre Aubert “Le Devoy”

23 07 2012

There are two compelling reasons why you should track down and drink this wine:

  1. It is a tremendously good value wine that offers depth, intrigue and tons of flavour at a bargain price.
  2. 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!

Nuclear wine! You will forever hold a place in my heart.

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.

Cork Rating: 3/10 (“Mis en Bouteilles au Domaine” just means “We Didn’t Make Our Own Corks”. Boring.)

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!

90 points

$15 to $20 CDN

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4 responses

2 09 2012
grapesandvinyl

What’s your aging suggestions for Le Devoy? Do you think it’ll stand the test of time or is it solely for drinking right now. I wish I had known about the risk of growing a third arm before diving in, yet I don’t think it’ll stop me from revisiting.

Thanks!

Erik-

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2 09 2012
petervetsch

Hey Erik, I think the Le Devoy is probably intended for near-term drinking. I’m sure it’ll last for a couple more years, but I doubt it’ll be better than it is right now. Inexpensive Grenache-based wines are usually made for immediate enjoyment…Grenache tends to be low in acid and tannin so isn’t structured to age. There are some exceptions at higher price points (e.g. Chateau Rayas CNDP, which is normally 100% Grenache and can go forever), but I’d crack the Nuclear Wine now. No point waiting on superpowers.

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19 11 2013
sascha

Thanks for your review, it was a pleasure to read. I’ll try any wine that is comparable to a choirboy with a mohawk!

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19 11 2013
petervetsch

Cheers Sascha! I believe the 2011 Le Devoy is the current one on the shelves, and it’s very good as well. Thanks!

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