The Scarlet Pimpernel, daring and mysterious- Richard Esling April 6

According to legend, an English aristocrat Sir Percy Blakeney risked life and limb in the eighteenth century to save French noblemen from the guillotine, during the French Revolution of 1789.

The Scarlet Pimpernel wine
The Scarlet Pimpernel wine

The daring and mysterious swordsman was one of the first ‘superheroes’, complete with cape and mask to disguise his identity and referred to as The Scarlet Pimpernel. The exploits of said superhero are the substance of a series of stories by Baroness Orczy, apparently based on a true character. Such is the stuff of legends that there is also a theory that the actual Scarlet Pimpernel was in fact a Frenchman!

There is, however, another Scarlet Pimpernel, less swashbuckling but nonetheless intriguing, which is a wildflower, found both in Europe and in South Africa. Growing abundantly in the foothills of the Hottentot Mountains of the Western Cape, the flowers were harvested by Annie Rozier, a flower merchant at the turn of the 19th Century. She in turn gave her name to a winery called the Mount Rozier Cellar.

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And a red wine produced by this cellar, is naturally called The Scarlet Pimpernel. Sold under the admirable Fairtrade label, it is a careful blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec, with a touch of Cinsault. Using modern winemaking techniques, the hand harvested grapes are fermented separately according to variety. Six months after pressing and malolactic fermentation, the four varieties are blended and prepared for bottling.

With a deep, purple-red colour, this is a deliciously fruity wine, with dark plum and blackberry aromas and flavours. Ripe tannins of Merlot are balanced by earthy, rich flavours of Malbec, underpinned by a backbone from the Cabernet Sauvignon, with added complexity and balance given by the addition of Cinsault.

The Scarlet Pimpernel flower was the symbol of the formidable swordsman of legend who changed identity and this red blend is the ultimate chameleon, being soft and graceful yet bold and daring. Whilst full flavoured, the wine has the elegance and refinement of a European wine, with the added benefit of riper South African fruit.

The Scarlet Pimpernel 2020 is very attractively priced at £7 a bottle from the Co-op – tremendous value for money. Perfect for a barbecue lunch in the garden – once the weather warms up again. “We seek him here we seek him there, those Frenchies seek him everywhere…” A wine well worth seeking out!