The red and the white

These colors might run
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› paulr@sfbg.com

In the pot-hazed precincts of bohemia, anything seems possible — and is that furtive person in the corner actually pouring the remains of a bottle of red wine into a half-empty bottle of white? Could someone please phone the wine police? (Wine-1-1?)

Bohemian life has ebbed in this city, no question, but living splinters of it remain, mostly in rambling flats in the Mission. The furtive person wasn't actually in the corner but at the refrigerator — bohemians have refrigerators now — and she wasn't blending red and white wines like matter and antimatter in some apocalyptic Star Trek episode but reaching for a bottle of Peju Province's Provence blend. It's the red wine you chill, and that's because it's not red wine, properly understood, but a proprietary blend of merlot, cab, and zin, along with chardonnay and colombard. It also costs about $22 a bottle — or, in a barter economy, nearly a case of Two Buck Chuck — but one of the wisdoms of bohemia is that if you're going to blow some cash, blow it on an experience rather than a possession. A bottle of wine is a possession, in a sense, but only briefly; it's really more a bottled experience that, like a genie, we summon when we choose.

While the cork master worked her magic, Stendahl was discussed by we sofa surfers. The Red and the Black. I have long been struck by the stark Franco-Italian distinction between the colors of wine: noir-nero versus blanc-bianco, black and white, one or the other, never the twain shall meet. Rosé, a possible exception, is basically neutered, or interrupted, red wine. The European versions and their domestic imitators can be a little austere and can taste rather strongly of alcohol, whereas the "white" wines made from red grapes — zin, cab, merlot — are friendlier but often too sweet and even, sometimes, fizzy, like soft drinks.

Peju's blend is better than any of them. The wine has enough richness of color to convince, and while it's light enough in body to benefit from chilling, it tastes more of fruit than of alcohol. It tastes, in fact, like a still version of cold duck, the sparkling party wine of yesteryear — and, as we discovered, it mixes well with talk about Stendahl. Bohemia lives!

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