Côtes du Rhône Villages “Valréas” 1996 – Domaine des Grands Devers, René Sinard – Alc. 13.5%. Varietal rules in Valréas impose 50% Grenache minimum, 20% minimum of Syrah and/or Mourvèdre, others 20% maximum; from the taste and Sinard’s reputation, I guess that the Syrah content is above the minimum. Valréas lies at the northerly end of the Southern Rhône area, which could lead to difficulties in ripening Mourvèdre.
This wine would shock Southern Rhône lovers who expect deep colour and full body. Both colour and body were quite light in a way closer to Coteaux Champenois than to Châteauneuf du Pape (Rayas excepted). The palate shape was linear, long and elegant but well shaped with no hollows and with gently steely structural support towards the finish; aromas and fruit were surprisingly fresh and pure with a lot of gently bitter cherry and a little kirsch; the overall effect was refined and quite Burgundian. Part of the relative lightness may be due to the 1996 vintage though its characteristically strong acidity was no longer particularly marked; a very attractive wine; 16.5/20.
The wines of Domaine des Grand Devers under René Sinard enjoyed a strong following with Belgian connoisseurs for their purity of flavour and aptitude for ageing; at the end of the 90s the estate was sold to a family whose efforts are much less appreciated by these people.