Michel & Pampilia Guiraud 2001 "Comme à Cayenne" Saint-Chinian ($14.99)
The proprietary name of this Languedoc red, which translates as "like Cayenne," doesn't mean it tastes of peppery fire. It's a joke on the name of a notorious French prison in the Caribbean - underscored by the ball-and-chain on the label - because, the proprietors say, their grandparents had to spend a year at hard labor, breaking up rocks, to build the vineyard. Labeled "contains no added sulfites, contains naturally occurring sulfites," this blend of 85 percent Grenache with Carignan is an inky dark-ruby color in the glass, almost black, showing a hazy ruby glow when held against a light. Underlying plummy aromas show against a complex and shifting backdrop with elements of brown spice, "barnyard" and the sulfury, rubbery, dank notes that suggest "reduction," a happily temporary state that likely results from it having been bottled with care to avoid exposure to oxygen, a necessity in light of its low sulfite content. Flavors are consistent with the nose, plummy fruit and spice with earthy, warm (14% alcohol) notes backed by tangy acidity leading into a long tart-cherry finish. US Importer: Hand Picked Selections, Warrenton, Va. (Aug 30, 2003)

FOOD MATCH: Fine with a pepper-crusted, pan-roasted ribeye steak.

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