Every year, we snatch a week or so in the South West tip of Cornwall. We’ve tried other parts of the county, but it is the rugged landscape littered with skeletons of tin mines and hidden coves that draws us back time and again. Sitting by a roaring open fire after a hearty walk, with a fabulous glass of wine in hand and listening to the waves crash on the beach below is one of life’s great pleasures.
Normally, we take a few decent bottles with us and, if we run out, we’ll stock up locally. Locally used to be the established independent wine merchants in the centre of Penzance and, latterly, the newish M&S in Hayle. But now it’s Scarlet Wine.
We stumbled upon Scarlet Wines in Lelant near Hayle by taking a wrong turn coming back from St. Ives. Once a forge and more recently a pottery, Scarlet Wines is also a deli, cafe, tapas and wine bar. You could say they’re hedging their bets in the Cornish economy. They need to make money from locals as much as tourists. But I think they’ve worked hard at making wine accessible in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere where you are left to browse.
The wine selection isn’t huge, but it is exciting and diverse, with a slight slant towards Italy and France. Each wine has a clear, simple but evocative description that made me want to buy everything. I did snap up quite a few including a 2009 Solarena Tempranillo, which was like drinking a raspberry brulee and, as the shelf description said, fantastic value for around £7; a wonderfully lime and steel Grosset Polish Hill 2009 Riesling (because I love it); and a spicy cooked pear Ribeauville Pinot Gris 2008.
They do stock Cornish wine – I bought some Camel Valley and the Polgoon Red 2009 on a later visit. In addition, they have a small shelf of what they believe are great wines for £6, acknowledging that not everyone visiting has deep pockets.
My one quibble is their website. For such a stylish place they have an old-fashioned, uninspiring, overly busy site. But aside from that, what they’re doing is terrific and I hope I’ll be visiting (and buying wine there) for years to come.