Helen McGinn Interview

Helen McGinn, author of award-winning blog and book, The Knackered Mother’s Wine Club, is my ‘Woman of Substance’ this month. “Mother, wino – sometimes in that order” is the strapline on her website, setting the engaging tone from the start. Helen has inspired a new breed of wine drinkers – following a decade as a supermarket wine buyer, Helen turned to blogging by accident, after her first child, George, was born. As her blog audience grew, she was approached to publish a book of the same name and has since published ‘Teetotal Tipples – for January and beyond’. I love Helen's blog and will be taking the latest book on holiday too! She lives in the New Forest with her husband and children, George, Xander and Alice.

Helen, many readers will love to hear how your fun wine blogging began. Do tell us the story.

For years, friends and family had asked me for wine advice, often calling or texting from the supermarket wine aisle! So I started sending out an email with latest offers and new wines to look out for. Then, when I had my third baby, I turned to the Internet for help on something and found brilliant advice on a parenting blog. The fact that it was advice from someone I could relate to and not from a textbook made all the difference. That’s when I thought that sharing my wine knowledge via a blog might be a good idea. I wrote my first post in September 2009 and have been posting two new wine recommendations every week ever since.

I know your blog has a very down-to-earth style and is conversational and easy, coupled with your serious knowledge of wine, is it this that you think has captured your audience’s imagination or something else?

I know from experience how intimidating (not to mention boring!) ‘wine speak’ can be. So I try to avoid jargon but still tell the story behind each wine. Given my supermarket background, the wines I pick for the blog are at the great value end of the scale – with the occasional blow out, of course! And I just try to write as I speak. After eight years, it feels like I’m just talking to friends about wine.

How much do you believe someone needs to know about wine to make the best choices and really enjoy it?

Technically, you don’t need to know anything beyond whether you like the smell and taste of something enough to have another sip (or glass). No-one but you can decide if a wine is lovely or not. But as with food, I like to know what it is I’m drinking, where it’s from and how best to serve it. Also with a bit of wine knowledge, it’s much easier to find the really good stuff. You know which countries, regions and grapes to look for to find a great value, brilliant wine.

Your book of non-alcoholic cocktails, ‘Teetotal Tipples – for January and beyond’ was - and still is - a huge hit. Millennials are not as keen on alcohol as their parents’ generation – why do you think that is? Will you be introducing a Knackered Mothers' healthy cocktails club now!?

Just as our approach to food has changed in recent years, an ‘everything in moderation’ approach has influenced how we drink. We know that too much sugar, fat, alcohol, whatever isn’t good for us. But after doing a dry January last year, I realized that it wasn’t the not drinking that was difficult. Rather, it was finding something non-alcoholic that felt a little more grown up than the soft drinks alternatives. Now I have at least three dry days a week but when I do have a glass of wine, I make sure it’s something I really want to drink. I’m writing my next book now and yes, it’s got healthy cocktails in it! It’s out next year.

Do tell us the story of how you made a Bloody Mary for Frank Lampard - sounds interesting.

For a few years I was the resident wine expert on The Alan Titchmarsh Show, along with resident celebrity chef Nadia Sawalha. Every week I’d choose wines to go with whatever she was cooking and we’d have an on air wine tasting with Alan’s guests. One week, the theme was cocktails and I had to make one for Frank Lampard. I think I was a bit generous with the vodka; it brought tears to his eyes! But he gave it the thumbs up. I was thrilled.

I know you are a fan of Winser London and have been from the early days - which pieces from our Summer collection do you have in your wardrobe and which do you have your eye on?

My wardrobe staples include a midnight navy Tilda Silk Shirt and I wore the Striped Silk Shirt in chambray to the Chelsea Flower Show this year. Now I’ve got my eye on the YLB Cashmere Wrap in Sunnylands yellow (such a gorgeous colour) and a Katherine Silk T-Shirt in black.
For weekly wine recommendations visit Helen’s blog at knackeredmotherswineclub.com