I’m Helen McGinn, author of The Knackered Mother’s Wine Club, an award winning wine blog and now best-selling wine book. I’m an ex-supermarket wine buyer and spent almost a decade sourcing wines around the world. I post here on the blog every week, with at least two wine recommendations each week. Mother, wino, sometimes in that order. Strictly no insipid wines allowed. Unless too tired..
I’m currently 60% rosé, 40% hot dogs and the school holidays haven’t even started yet. I blame the weather. And the football. Anyway, Eldest Boy breaks up on Friday, the other two at the end of next week. Then we’ve got six long weeks ahead and as usual I can’t wait/am dreading it in pretty equal measure. On the one hand, no routine! On the other, no routine! I can feel my rosé levels rising already.
I thought I could take it or leave it. You know, dip in and out as and when it suited me. But before I knew it I was in too deep. And now it’s a full on obsession. Yes, I know it’s ridiculous but I just can’t help myself. And now, if you don’t mind I’m off to watch the next episode of Love Island. With a massive glass of wine, obviously.
I love a fancy dress party. So I went all out on Saturday at an 80’s themed party (the decade, not the age). I’m talking zebra print dress, black leggings, gold boots, candy pink leg warmers, arms covered in plastic bangles, lots of pink and blue eyeshadow and half a can of backcomb spray in my hair topped off with a scrunchy. I felt about 12 years old. Up until the point when, midway through 99 Red Balloons, I jumped a little too enthusiastically and felt my knee go. Suddenly I was 45 again, in terrible clothes, holding a bag of frozen peas to my leg. Not quite the knees up I had in mind.
Last week I was going on about not caring what I looked like in a swimming costume. But then I went and ordered a new one after two glasses of rosé last Sunday night. When it arrived, I opened the box and put it on the table. I literally couldn’t take my eyes off it. It had frills. And it was ruched. Eventually I tried it on and – I’m not kidding – IT HAD A PLUNGE FRONT. Obviously it went back. And instead I went to Boden, cup of tea in hand. Turns out I’m not quite the frill-seeker I thought I was.
Last night our book club met at the beach. It was a glorious evening – calm sea, colourful sunset, cold rosé. We swam before tucking into a picnic and a discussion about the book, once we’d remembered what the book was called in the first place (Stay With Me. Ironic, really). Anyway, running into the sea like Phoebe from Friends (you know, in The One Where Phoebe Runs) was exhilarating. Liberating, even. One of the perks of getting older is not giving two hoots what you look like in a swimming costume, despite parts being a little less perky than they once were. Add rosé-tinted glasses and everything looks fairly fabulous.
Yesterday I spent the day at the London Wine Fair and was, basically, like a kid in a sweet shop. And a really greedy (thirsty?) one at that. It was at Olympia and the room was packed with winemakers and their wines. For years I went to the fair as a supermarket wine buyer and spent most of the time in meetings in sweaty box-rooms looking at spreadsheets. Now I’m able to walk around searching out wine gems, talking to winemakers as I go. And it’s wonderful. In fact, it’s usually talking to the winemaker that really brings a wine to life. This week I’ve picked two wines with amazing people behind them and hope I go some way to telling you their story for them.
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On Monday, the Husband and I celebrated 30 years since we first started going out. We were fifteen, the year was 1988. So in an effort to recreate that late ’80s feeling I booked two tickets to see Chess The Musical at the London Colosseum. Stay with me. We met at Kettner’s beforehand in their gorgeous new champagne bar (FYI their house pour is a biscuity blanc de noirs, really good value vs. the other big names on the list). Then it was showtime. I laughed, I cried, I sang along to I Know Him So Well. Both parts, obviously. A night away without the kids and we came back feeling like we’d been on holiday for a week. Funny, then, how 30 years feels like no time at all.
Earlier this week I popped up on ITV’s This Morning to talk about sugar in wine with the divine Philip Schofield and Holly Willoughby. The good news is that in the grand scheme of things, wine isn’t too bad as far as sugar goes. Most are fermented dry with yeasts converting the natural sugars found in grapes into alcohol. Anything that’s left is measured as residual sugar, or RS in wine speak. We’re talking a pinch per glass for most wines, half a teaspoon for sparkling. To put that into context, there’s around six teaspoons of sugar in a glass of orange juice. Of course, some of the sweet rosé or blush wines have more but a pale Provence rosé? A pinch, if that. Annoyingly though, alcohol is almost twice as calorific as sugar. But think bone dry with sensible alcohol levels and you’ll avoid the sugar rush.
At last, it looks like sun is on the way. And this time it might just stay for more than about 20 minutes. When we were promised some sun a few weeks ago I duly threw on the St Tropez and went the colour of an old mahogany sideboard (my preferred shade). Sadly, the tan way outlasted the actual sunshine. But the forecast for the Bank Holiday is looking pretty good. I’m predicting patches of white, with spells of rosé and a fair amount of red overnight…
I was away working in London all last week and after two rain-sodden weeks of school holidays, it felt like something of a mini-break. Admittedly quite a weird one; I spent much of it spitting out wine. Not because they were horrible but because I was judging at a wine competition. One night I sat at a table at one of my favourite restaurants in Soho (from the old days, before kids ofc) with a plate of spicy crab cakes and a side order of chips whilst reading my book/watching the world go by on my own. Heavenly. Anyway, the competition results are out next month (I’ll report back on the best ones) but in the meantime, here’s what I learnt:
I plan to drink a lot of Italian Vermentino this summer
Same goes for Godello from Spain
There’s some very good non-vintage Champagne about at the moment
Canadian Ice wine gives you a better sugar rush than chocolate
I like the Saperavi grape from Georgia more than I thought I did
English Sparkling Wine is a great way to start the day (even if you do have to spit it out)
As for an end of day palate cleanser, G&T is the answer. Strictly no spitting.