The Henley Literary Festival opens today with Charles Emmerson at the Red Lion Hotel. Lots of other best selling authors including David Gower, Stella Rimmington and Barry Norman have shows today. There are still a few seats left at some of the festival events this week. We’re delighted to publish our second exclusive intervew with Helen McGinn author of Knackered Mothers’ Wine Club and also wine expert for Alan Titchmarsh’s ITV show. See her at at Bix Manor tomorrow (Tuesday 1 October).
Knackered Mothers’ Wine Club
The children are finally in bed, asleep. A peaceful silence descends on the house, as you stand in the kitchen surveying the chaos left behind. You take the bottle of wine out the fridge, uncork it, and pour a glass.
You thought you grabbed yourself a bargain with the £5 bottle, but Helen McGinn dispels this myth in her best-selling book, The Knackered Mothers’ Wine Club, which will be showcased at the Henley Literary Festival on October 1st at the blog to book event.
If you spend £5 on a bottle of wine, more than half of that cost accounts for the duty and tax, leaving you with not much to spend on the actual wine after the mark up by the seller, she writes in her book. The value of the wine in a £5 bottle is actually only about 50p.
‘It’s always been that way, alcohol in this country has always had huge taxes on it,’ says Mrs McGinn, ‘in France you’re talking pennies but here you’re talking pounds and it’s not going to change – it might even get worse.‘
It follows that when the cost of a bottle rises, so does the quality of the wine.
‘A little of the good stuff is better than lots of cheap wine,’ says mother-of-three Mrs McGinn.
She explains that if you buy a bottle of wine for £7 you are getting more than double the value in actual wine than with the £5 bottle. Spend £10 and it doubles again. Spend £20 and half of the cost accounts for actual wine.
That does not mean you have to spend a fortune, however. Mrs McGinn usually shops for wine costing between £5-15.
‘I am obsessed about wine in the same way someone might be obsessed about trains or stamps,’ Mrs McGinn laughs. ‘I suppose the difference is I’m obsessed about the wines we drink every day rather than the smart wines that not everybody gets to drink.’
The Knackered Mothers’ Wine Club goes through the everyday life of a parent and matches suitable wine to occasions, whether it is the summer fete or the Christmas holidays.
Mrs McGinn was a supermarket buyer for wine before she had her children, now aged nine, five and four, and decided to work part time in her own wine consultancy firm. She has an eye for the good stuff.
‘Once people realise that if you spend a pound more, then that pound actually goes into the wine, it makes a big difference,’ said Mrs McGinn.
However, Mrs McGinn does encourage sensible drinking for health reasons and because ‘parenting with a hangover is just too painful’.
‘I do realise that its probably one of the best jobs in the world,’ she said, ‘It’s quite hard to ever have a bad day if you ever work in wine.’
If money was no object, her favourite drink is vintage Champagne. But Mrs McGinn enjoys discovering wines that other mothers can enjoy in their moment of peace and quiet.
‘Some of the nicest wines I’ve had have been cheap and cheerful, but sitting in my garden with the sun out and the wine tastes perfect for that moment right there and right then,’ she said.
The idea for her book came from the blog she was writing, where she would recommend her top wine choices to her family and friends. Her online audience grew, and one day as she was cooking dinner for the children, she received an email.
‘Dear Knackered Mother, I have read your blog and I’ve got kids too, and by the way I’m an editorial director of a publishing company and would you like to write a book,’ it said.
The email is now printed out and proudly displayed on the wall in Mrs McGinn’s toilet for all family and friends to see.
‘I couldn’t believe it was a real person,’ said Mrs McGinn.
For six months every Saturday morning her husband would take the children and the dogs off for four hours to allow her time to write.
Now Helen McGinn is the author of the best-selling drinks book in the UK.
More information and tickets at www.henleyliteraryfestival.co.uk