12 Questions With... Helen McGinn
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Lovely Helen is behind the totally excellent 'Knackered Mother's Wine Club', where you are sure to find a bargainous gem of a recommendation and laughter is guaranteed. As well as writing for her blog, she is also a weekly columnist at The Daily Mail, writer for Waitrose magazine and wine expert on ITV's Alan Titchmarsh Show. We managed to pin her down for half an hour last week and ask her 12 all-important questions on life and wine...
Please tell us a bit about your career thus far.
Almost a decade as a supermarket wine buyer, travelling the world and tasting wines followed by another decade writing about wines for a living – I feel like Charlie Bucket.
In an interview you once admitted that you were on your 5th Whiskey Sour when you decided to start the blog (have I got this right?). Is this a decision making process you still use? Or is there something better?
I think it was only my second (motherhood turned me into a complete lightweight). It was a combination of work avoidance and wanting to stop my friends and family all calling me on a Friday evening from the supermarket wine aisle asking me what wine to buy for the weekend. I’d come across a blog not long before when Googling something about mastitis (yup, three times) and it was a slight lightbulb moment. I thought maybe I could share my wine knowledge but in bite size chunks, aimed at people like me (i.e. knackered and in need of a good glass of wine).
As a wine buyer you no doubt travelled the globe. Do you have a favourite place?
I have three. I’m greedy like that. Burgundy (the wines!), Argentina (the mountains!) and New Zealand (the wines and the mountains!).
What do you serve to a tee-totaller at sunday lunch or dinner party?
I’d make them a Seedlip & Tonic to start with (the world’s first non-alcoholic spirit, tastes similar to gin. Gin-ius, in fact). Then I’d brave it with a non-alcoholic glass of red from Torres. They are way much better than they used to be. Actually, if roast beef’s on the table, I might give them a bottle of Brewdog’s Nanny State alcohol-free beer.
A favourite food / drink combination?
A glass of Champagne and a plate piled high with gougères (French cheese puffs). Every time I have these two together, I think I need never eat anything else, ever.
Has your palate changed since you started your career? Has motherhood/family affected what you tend to reach for?
If anything, it’s become more inquisitive. I’m worried I won’t have time to taste ALL the wines, so try and make it a different one every time. Proper FOMO. I tend to reach for lighter style wines rather than big alcoholic monsters nowadays.
What would you say to someone who finds choosing wine a bit daunting?
Don’t be scared. Try new things. And use the search button on my website to find all recently recommended wines, wherever you are.
What is your failsafe bottled gift?
What is your desert-island wine?
1988 Vintage Champagne. It’s the year my husband and I started going out and a friend gave us a bottle when we got married. We saved it until after our first baby was born. Even thinking about it brings tears to my eyes (of happiness I mean, not the thought of childbirth. Although now I think about it..).
Who would the top 3 people (dead or alive) you would love to share a bottle of wine with be, and why?
Jilly Cooper, because she loves her wine and because I love her books so could ask her all her writing secrets.
Michelle Obama, because SHE’S MICHELLE OBAMA.
And Madame Cliquot, the Grande Dame of Champagne. Widowed at a young age, she took on her late husband’s business and turned it into one of the most successful champagne brands in the world. I’d love to raise a glass with her to that.
Who from the world of wine would you recommend we follow ?
1. For fun, informative facts so we can learn more about wine
My friend Joe Wadsack. He’s incredibly knowledgeable about wine, remembers everything and has an amazing palate. @vinesack
2. For a laugh over a glass
The Scummy Mummies. They’re not officially from the world of wine but they do love it and are very, very funny. @scummymummies
Where is your favourite wine bar
Noble Rot, in Lamb’s Conduit Street, WC1. Just go.