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 do love a baby. Especially mine obviously, but they’re not babies anymore. And I’m not broody when I see one nowadays, just ridiculously tears-in-eyes happy. So much so I think I slightly freaked out the young mother in John Lewis last week, whose sleeping baby looked so beautiful tucked up in its pram I wanted to hug her (I didn’t). When the latest royal baby arrived earlier this week – adorable! – I loved seeing Prince Harry practically bursting with pride when he announced the news. I also loved the fact that they spent a couple of days (hopefully in pyjamas) together before facing the media. Seeing Kate on those steps last year in full make up, hair done and in heels hours after having hers made me feel quite uncomfortable and not just because I could barely walk in bloody slippers after having mine. But that’s another tears-in-eyes story.
Last week, I was on Radio 4’s You & Yours programme talking about organic wines. The presenter, Peter White (it was Winifred’s day off), asked me if KMWC readers (that’s you!) were interested in organic wines and I said yes, actually. Lots of you are. Which is great: no chemicals used in the vineyard is obviously a Good Thing. Also, the fact that generally less sulphur is added compared with non-organic wines seems to make some of you feel generally less shit after drinking wine even if it’s just a glass or two (hello, menopause). The thing is just because a wine is organic, doesn’t mean it’s good quality. I’ve added an organic tab to all the individual wine reviews here so you can spot the ones that are. Hope that helps.
In other news, I had my first Aperol Spritz of the year this week and it smelt of warm days ahead. Truly.
We’re nearly there. Last full week of the Easter Holidays (fist bump) culminating in a long chocolate-fuelled weekend (thumbs up). Now when it comes to finding the right wine to go with chocolate, sweet wines tend to work better than most. We’re talking tawny ports, Banyuls or Maury from France, or anything made from Muscat. Having said that, a smooth mellow red (think Australian Shiraz, Californian Zinfandel, Argentinian Malbec) slips down with dark chocolate quite happily. This week, I’ve included a chocolate-loving sweetie to go with those eggs along with one of the best bargain dry whites I’ve tasted recently. Happy hunting.
Grief is a funny thing. As in peculiar rather than ha ha, obviously. Seventeen years ago my brother died. I remember, a few years after, googling the five stages of grief. I just wanted to know when it would stop hurting so much. But the thing is grief doesn’t ever really go away. It does, however, get easier to live with. And – this is the really weird bit – in time it can make good things happen. A few weeks ago I recorded a podcast with my friend and founder of One Small Thing and the Justice podcast series, Edwina Grosvenor. It covers grief, forgiveness and wine. You can listen to it here. Preferably glass in hand.
I’ve been working away from home this week. Of course I miss the kids blah blah but there are serious upsides. Take yesterday. After work, I met a friend for a drink and a bite to eat at one of my favourite London restaurants, Barrafina (the new/old one on Dean Street in Soho). One of the only things you want to drink after tasting wine all day is either tea, a stiff G&T or (my favourite) a glass of bone dry sherry. So there I was, manzanilla in hand, when Andrew Scott walked past. You know, the priest from Fleabag. Reader, I felt blessed. Then we went (me and my friend that is, not me and Andrew Scott) to see the best play I’ve seen for years. Called Come From Away, it’s the story of what happened when planes diverted after the 9/11 attacks landed in Newfoundland. Honestly, it’s amazing. Go and see it if you can. Now, if you’ll excuse me I’m off to eat Turkish food in Shoreditch.
Mother’s Day soon and to celebrate I’ve got some prizes I’m hoping might appeal to anyone who’s either knackered, a mother or both. First up, sleep. Sadly not a week’s uninterrupted sleep in a kingsize bed but I do have a box of Spacemasks (thank you, Harriet) and they’re basically the next best thing. Next, wine. Obviously. One of my favourite wine retailers, M&S, has kindly donated a case of their Coteaux Varois en Provence Rosé (gorgeous!) worth £54 to the cause. And finally, a new handbag because as we all know happiness is a new handbag. This one’s a three-in-one with a smaller cross-body bag inside the big tote and a small zip purse inside that. You can pick whichever colour you prefer – pink, silver or yellow, see above – and my friend Sam from Pineapple Barn (check out her site for plenty more inspired gifts) will send it to you. For a chance to win all three prizes, leave a comment on the KMWC blog and a winner will be picked next week. Full T&Cs below. Good luck!
T&Cs: UK residents only. Must be over 18 years old to enter. Competition closes on 25th March 2019 at 11.59pm. The winner will be notified by email and prizes will be posted to the winner after that date.
A reader emailed recently asking for some low sulphur wines to try after being told by her GP that wine intolerance was common in middle-aged pre-menopausal women and a low/no added sulphur approach might help. I mean, a hot flush is one thing. But wine intolerance? Talk about adding insult to injury. Anyway, if you want to go low the trick is to go for organic, biodynamic or so-called natural wines as these will have lower levels of sulphur than most (although all wines will have at least some sulphur in them: it’s a natural by-product of fermentation). So a couple of this week’s wines are both low sulphur and fabulous. The other is Fairtrade, given that it’s Fairtrade Fortnight (as requested by another reader this week). Hope this helps. Now, excuse me whilst I go and open a window.
‘Just checking you’re ok…not seen you on social media for a bit?’ went the first message from a friend. ‘Are you away on hols?’ went another. Sadly I wasn’t sitting on my own private island with a cocktail in one hand, book in the other (would have posted that, obviously). But I did go dark for a bit because for the first time for a long time I was, quite literally, out of words. Almost two years after I started writing it, I’ve finally finished my first fiction book. As ever, you’ll be the first to know what happens next. In the meantime, back to booze and this week’s recommendations include the descriptions ‘delicious’ and ‘great value’. Quite my favourite words when it comes to wine.
A few years ago I bought a jumpsuit. We were off to New York for a long weekend and clearly thought a jumpsuit would elevate me from knackered mother to potential extra in Gossip Girl in one outfit. Instead, I remember feeling like a giant toddler. Except with wine. And going to the loo was a (cold) logistical nightmare. Anyway, I found it tucked away at the back of the cupboard the other day and felt bad that I hadn’t worn it since not getting that part in Gossip Girl. But I knew I had to face the fact: jumpsuits might look amazing on other people, just not on me. And I’m old enough to realise that clothes definitely shouldn’t make you feel self conscious or make it difficult to have a wee. If only I’d known that back in my puffball skirt-wearing days.
I had lunch with Rob Lowe last week. OK, ‘had lunch with’ might be pushing it. I was in a restaurant and he was on the next door table. Still, close enough to see that he looked pretty much as he did in St Elmo’s Fire but with slightly better hair. And to think I nearly married him!* (It was between him and John Taylor from Duran Duran). Anyway I was in one of my favourite restaurants, The River Cafe, as part of my get-through-January plan. The food was uh-mazing as was the bottle of Chianti shared with friends. I think I need a plan for February. I’ll see if John Taylor’s free.