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..
Last week, one lovely reader asked about gin. She’d walked into a bar, ordered a gin & tonic, was asked which gin and panicked. So, her question: is there really that much of a difference apart from the price tag? Answer: the basic recipe is the same i.e. neutral spirit with added botanicals. But it’s the particular botanicals used that’ll make a big difference to the end result. To be called gin, one of the main botanical ingredients must be juniper (smells a bit like pine). But the rest is up to the producer. You’ll find citrusy gins, floral gins, spicy gins, juniper-heavy gins…and that’s before we get into sloe gins, flavoured gins and barrel-aged gins. The trick is to experiment, find your preferred style and get stuck in. I seem to change my gin preference according to the weather: lighter styles in summer, weightier in winter. So, with more snow potentially on the way I’m currently on the aged gin (see this week’s reviews below for more details).
As for the tonic, I’ve just topped up on a homeopathic remedy. I know it’s not for everyone but after a free trial I’m now on my second bespoke bottle. No idea how it works but I’m definitely sleeping better. And I promise that’s nothing to do with the aged gin.
So, as I write this, everywhere is blanketed in the white stuff. But like a foot sticking out from the edge of the duvet, where we live (in the New Forest) is cold but uncovered. And I’ve got serious snow envy because unless we get some, it means we’ve got to do World Book Day tomorrow. Cue last minute costume dramas. I’ll keep you posted.
When it comes to Mother’s Day, I don’t ask for much. Which is just as well because the Husband would pass out if he knew how much my favourite bubble bath cost (Elemis Muscle Soak, as it happens). But I do insist on bubbles of another kind on Mother’s Day. In a glass bottle, preferably vintage. So this week’s picks are mostly bubbly, including an organic prosecco and a bargain vintage champagne. There’s also a gin that would make a brilliant gift (and costs less than the bubble bath). Here’s to you and yours (and mine, seen here. Filter: tequila) on Sunday.
Honestly, I never used to get the whole self-care thing. In my twenties, I was too busy. In my thirties, too tired. But now, in my forties, I’m getting the hang of it. One morning a week I go for a swim followed by a Pilates class. Two hours feels like four and I always leave feeling rejuvenated, albeit with slightly wet hair and goggle marks. I’m lucky enough to live down the road from Lime Wood, one of the most beautiful hotels. Their Herb House Spa, set in the forest, is an actual slice of heaven with a hydro pool, mud house, sauna, outdoor hot pool and treatment rooms. In other words, the perfect place for some serious self-care. And I’m thrilled to say we’ve got a Rebalance with Bamford Spa Day (includes lunch, a 60 minute massage and use of facilities) for two up for grabs. Not only that, five runners up will receive a Seedlip gift pack (includes a bottle of Seedlip and two bottles of Fever Tree tonic) worth £32. Click on the link below to enter and you’ve got until the 16th February to do so. Good luck!
After what feels like 782 days, January is finally over. Even the universe seemed pleased to see the back of it, sticking a beautiful blue moon in the sky to celebrate. Come to think of it a few things happened in January that, not unlike a blue moon, I know to be rare but not impossible. I found the coat of my dreams half price in the sale and in my size. And in between deadlines, I wrote another chapter of my up-lit (for that is its genre, apparently) novel. I’m yet to find a loo seat left down in this house but turns out not even a blue moon can help with that.
This time last week I was sitting in an alpine restaurant with a plate of macaroni covered in melted swiss cheese and a glass of crisp white swiss wine in front of me. We were in Lenzerheide for half term, a gorgeous ski resort the Husband had been to years ago, and it was heavenly. Last year’s ski trip ended in disaster (ruptured anterior cruciate ligament, possibly the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced. I mean, childbirth hurt more but at least you get a prize at the end of that. With a ruptured ACL, it’s all pain and no gain). But this year, with the help of a knee brace, I got back on skis and conquered the mountain. Or at least did a couple of runs before stopping for that plate of pasta and glass of white wine. We don’t see a lot of swiss wine over here, mostly because they drink so much of it over there. But one of this week’s picks is alpine-inspired; think aprés ski in a glass. And any aprés ski you can do sitting down is nailing it, IMHO.
Happy New Year! Yes, I know I’m a little late but we came crashing into 2018 with lost luggage, sick bugs and sizeable hangovers. Anyway, I’ve included a 0% wine and beer in the reviews below this week just in case you need a change from drinking tonic with a dash of bitters (and assuming you’ve already got a copy of Teetotal Tipples *raises one eyebrow*). I’m sticking to my usual: three dry days a week with something really good in my glass in between.
As ever, if there’s anything else you want from the KMWC – some new videos? More pre-mixed cases of wine? – let me know and it shall be so. There’s a book coming out later this year (cocktails!), another one in the pipeline and some exciting plans for the shop. More on that asap. In the meantime, here’s to really good things.
So, I went to a Burns Night supper on Thursday night and left thinking I really must drink more whisky. Not that night (I’d already had a couple of drams). Just generally, because it’s the most glorious drink and I really don’t drink it very often. Dried fruits, nuts, vanilla and spice – the flavour variation is endless depending on how and where it’s made. And taking it with a dash of cold water means it won’t (funnily enough) burn. Talking of which, note to self: don’t leave doing your upper lip until the last minute when you’re going out. Talk about feeling the burn. Anyway, I’ve included a great (value) starter whisky in this week’s reviews. Slàinte, as they say.
I’ve been reading a brilliant book called The Sober Diaries by Clare Pooley. Like me, she’s a mother of three in her forties. Unlike me, she doesn’t drink alcohol. What made her stop was a slow decline from having a glass or two in the evening once the kids were in bed to drinking at least one, sometimes two bottles a night. It’s a heartbreaking but hopeful read; refreshingly honest and really funny.
And it’s definitely made me think about my relationship with alcohol. Even with two or three dry nights a week I’m sometimes on the outer limits of the current government ones (7-10 glasses a week, depending on the wine). But I know what counts is knowing my limits, not just my units.
Anyway, I absolutely loved reading Clare’s book. Not least because realising I’m not the only one whose children leave dirty plates on top of the dishwasher and not in it made me feel so much better.
So all my presents are bought, wrapped and ready to go. Cards have been written. Homemade mince pies are stashed in the freezer. In my dreams, obviously. Honestly, when it comes to Christmas planning I’m definitely not your woman. But when it comes to sorting out drinks, that I can do. If you’re on the lookout for bottle-related presents, here are a couple of ideas. I’ll do wines for the Big Day next week.
The Fail-Safe Bottle of Fizz
Crémant, the French sparkler made in the same way as champagne, is a little fancier than Prosecco. And it makes cheap champagne look like a panic buy. One of the best ones on the shelf at the moment is from M&S. See this week’s wine reviews for more details.
Christmas Pudding Gin
Christmas puddings, distilled. Literally. Put it in a G&T and shove a cinnamon stick in it. Or serve it chilled, like a shot. However you drink it, it’ll make you giddy with festive feels. From Sacred, £35.95 a bottle. Limited availability, obviously. Click here for more info.