Writing is one of the great joys in life made even more pleasurable by meeting interestingly brilliant people. Helen McGinn would be one of those people.
She is the force of nature behind The Knackered Mother’s Wine Club and if Helen is well and truly knackered, then she may have good reason for that. Take a deep breath. Here we go:
Helen is an author, drinks writer and presenter. She co-chairs the International Wine Challenge, is the drinks writer for the Daily Mail Femail Magazine and Waitrose Food Magazine, and regularly appears on television as a wine expert on BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen and ITV’s This Morning. She is also the dedicated mother to 3 wonderful children…oh and wife to her husband Ross.
So how did the journey to becoming a Knackered Mother with a Wine Club begin? Well, naturally it began with wine. Spending a decade as a supermarket wine buyer before the Knackered Mother’s Wine Club was created. Her blog started out as a way of sharing the wine recommendations that she would give friends to a wider audience.
She does admit that her blog was also partially born out of a need to stop her friends from calling her in a panic from the supermarket wine aisle wondering what on earth to buy. She would also like to go on record as saying that this is still a regular occurrence.
The turning point came when her award-winning blog was spotted by an editor at a big publishing house. They wanted to turn it into a book, and so The Knackered Mother’s Wine Guide was born. The book became a bestseller and soon after that she was offered a newspaper column and then a producer got in touch to ask if she’d do some television. Her answer? “Of course I would!”
“It was terrifying and exhilarating all at the same time, but I love doing it just as much now as I did that first time.”
Helen is now a regular on our television screens. She can be seen on shows such as This Morning and Saturday Kitchen, gloriously describing the delicate intricacies and aromas of wines around the world in such a way that you almost feel compelled to pack up your belongings and live out the rest of your days in a Tuscan vineyard.
Her enthusiasm and personality radiate and her passion is palpable. She looks back on her journey with incredibly fond memories and credits the role her previous job played in helping her get to where she is today.
“I absolutely loved my job. I was supported through my wine exams, got to travel the world and work alongside really wonderful people. But what I do now allows me to fit work around family life in a way that just wasn’t possible before. Those ten years gave me the experience – and courage – to go on and do it, and for that, I’m forever grateful.”
Her new career path has not been without its challenges though. This is a woman who at any given time is spinning a plethora of plates whilst helping to pioneer change in an industry that has been predominantly dominated by men. She does believe though that the drinks industry is becoming more open and diverse and she is hoping to continue and drive that change as Patron of The Drinks Trust.
Knackering but Worth it
All of this makes us wonder: just how knackering has it been creating the Knackered Mother’s Wine Club whilst raising a family?
“There were times when I wondered if it really was all worth it. Working late into the night or having to miss putting the kids to bed.”
“But for them to see me doing what I love is important too, and for the most part, I’ve been able to make my work fit around my family rather than the other way round. In other words: knackering but totally worth it.”.
The adventure of a lifetime has come with some incredible highs; from winning Fortnum & Mason’s Drinks Writer at their inaugural awards, to British wine critic Jancis Robinson hailing her debut wine book as groundbreaking and making Stanley Tucci a cocktail on Saturday Kitchen – but her greatest achievement to date was fulfilling a lifetime ambition:
“I think the highlight of the journey so far has been holding a copy of my first fiction book in my hands. It was always a dream of mine to write a novel. I’ve now written three with more to come.” Now, not even Stanley Tucci could come close to that.
The Importance of Family
Helen’s family plays such an important role in her life and it’s clear to see how much they mean to her. When asked if there was only one wine she could drink for the rest of her life, without missing a beat she says:
“Vintage champagne from 1988, the year my husband and I got together. We actually met when we were four years old but it wasn’t until the grand old age of fifteen that we started going out. I literally followed him around until he asked me.”
We also touch on the subject of her brother Tim who tragically died at the age of 25. “If I could sit down with anybody and share a glass of wine, it would be my little brother Tim. I miss him every day.” She said.
In Just One Day
The devastation of losing somebody so close and important in her life helped inspire her latest book In just One Day.
A novel about love, loss, and finding your way back to happiness, it tells the story of Flora and her brother Billy and how sometimes life can change, just like that. It is an emotional, uplifting, joyful journey and truly unforgettable.
Naturally, of course, Flora works in a wine shop and the novel is set in two of Helen’s favourite places, the New Forest (where she lives ) and Venice. The nostalgia of seaside Britain and the breathtaking beauty of Italy take the reader on their own adventure through the eyes of a girl who adored her brother.
“The book is doing really well and the reviews sometimes make me cry (for the right reasons.) Some have said how the book has helped them in some way and that means the world to me.”
Becoming Charlie Bucket
Helen has been inspired and influenced by a number of strong females. She would gorge on the works of Jancis Robinson when she first began learning about wine. She explains that. “World Atlas of Wine (written with Hugh Johnson) is still one of my favourites. Jancis is a brilliant communicator and great supporter of women in the wine trade.”
She also tells of her admiration for great female writers like Jilly Cooper, Rosamunde Pilcher, Jackie Collins and Mary Wesley.
“I grew up on their books and hoped I might write books for a living one day. And now I do, along with tasting and talking about wine. I feel like Charlie Bucket.”
The Next Chapter
Helen’s lust for life has just seen her finish writing her third fiction book, that will hopefully be out this year. Now, she is about to begin work on her next one. “Other than that I hope to continue talking about wine on the telly whenever I can – and sharing plenty of lovely bottles with my friends and family, of course!”
This has been an insight into the relentless world of the Knackered Women’s Wine Club. feeling exhausted? You should be. Now get those feet up and enjoy a soupçon of chardonnay. It’s what Helen would want.
Visit The Knackered Mother’s Wine Club to find out more about Helen’s award-winning wine blog.
To order your copy of Helen’s latest book ‘In Just One Day’ click here.