Meet our latest Create Academy instructor, Helen McGinn

Read our interview with the author of the award-winning blog ‘The Knackered Mother’s Wine Club’, drinks writer and presenter, Helen McGinn.

A Hampshire girl born and bred, the much-loved wine expert Helen McGinn lives in the New Forest with her husband Ross, who she met aged four on their first day of nursery, and three teenage children.

“My husband reminded me recently that, as a 15-year-old (we’ve known each other a long time!) I told him I wanted to be a writer,” Helen recalls. “I joined a Wine Society at University, mostly because the drinks were cheap. But, as it turned out, I completely fell in love with the subject. Everyone I met who came to speak to us about wine got to travel the world, work with wonderful people and drink it for a living. It seemed like an excellent idea to me, so I joined a supermarket straight from university and spent a decade as a wine buyer there. One of my favourite parts of the wine buying job was writing about it so I guess that’s what led me to start the Knackered Mother’s Wine Club blog many years later.”

What aspect of being a wine taster do you enjoy the most?

I love the fact that I will never run out of new wines to try. Every year brings something different and there are so many places making fantastic wines nowadays. There are literally no downsides apart from having black teeth at the end of a day’s wine tasting. I often forget, then smile at someone only for them to recoil at the sight.

When you’re not blogging, writing, presenting and being a mother, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

If I’m not doing any of the above, you’ll find me folding the washing! If I had more time to be creative I’d spend it trying to be a better gardener.

Tell us about your writing. Where do you find your inspiration from?

When the wine in your glass is delicious, words come easily. And I always try and write as I speak. When it comes to writing fiction, there’s usually a fair bit of wine woven into the story.

Wine critic Jancis Robinson MW was an early inspiration, her books were among the first I read when studying for my wine exams. And I’m lucky to be surrounded by some brilliant women in the wine industry, many of whom are now dear friends. On the book side, I grew up reading Mary Wesley, Rosamunde Pilcher, Barbara Taylor Bradford, Jilly Cooper and Jackie Collins. I’m inspired by their incredible storytelling – all in quite different ways – and the way they bring characters to life. They all have such warmth in their writing.

What wines are you excited about right now?

So many! The wines coming out of places like Greece and South Africa are a total joy. And I’m currently loving the wines from the slightly underrated regions in France, like Gascony and the Loire. Also, Italy. With hundreds of different regions and grape varieties, you can never get bored with Italian wines.

And your go-to wine?

Depends on my mood, food and the weather. The wine I want in my glass when the sun is shining is very different to the one I want when sitting in front of a roaring fire. But if I had to choose one style, it would be something sparkling. It’s impossible not to feel better when you have bubbles in your glass.

What’s the first thing you consider when buying a bottle of wine from a supermarket?

Price! Then what’s inside (where from, what grapes, who made it) and finally whether I like the label or not. I do like a nice label.

We’re lucky that most of our retailers in the UK source their wine responsibly but it’s important to get to know the producers behind the bottles you like too.

Any advice for beginners who know little about wine?

Don’t be put off by the enormity of the subject. A little essential knowledge goes a long way. Trust your own taste buds and try lots of new things. We don’t stick to the same food every time we eat, the same should go for wine!

Discover how to confidently choose the right bottle for every occasion with Helen’s online Create Academy course on The Fundamentals of Wine Appreciation.

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