My belly and whole is being warmed by a Languedoc Viognier – peach, honeysuckle, perfect body – as I sit down to write a review of a very special book. Helen McGinn, author of said book The Knackered Mother’s Wine Club, has sort of become a hero of mine. An anti-heroine, rather. She is a Knackered Mother who loves wine, is an experienced wine buyer and wants us to love, experience and enjoy wine as she does. A good wine is all about balance – alcohol, sweetness, acidity, tannin. And I love balance – I am a yoga teacher after all.
If there ever was an A-B-C of wine, The Knackered Mother’s Wine Club (KMWC) is it. The confusing details of wine classification and tasting are rendered simple and memorable with her go-to tables on grape variety, growing region and food pairing. She is even so thoughtful as to include a handy chart suggesting new wines to try based on our current tastes (if you like Merlot, you might love Grenache). There’s advice on what to pair with your Christmas feast (an oaky Chardonnay is a worthy contender to the festive poultry), what to pack for a picnic in the sun (try a Muscadet Sur Lie for some crispy and refreshing pre-food drinking) and how to make perfect matches for the summer BBQ (try Pinot Noir with salmon kebabs)… if we ever get there, that is.
Helen teaches how to truly explore wine with all the senses and imparts wisdom, not only info. Her advice is concise and practical and gives us all the tools we need to go out and be our own sommelier – preloading our wine sat-nav, as she puts it. Days into reading, I had broken out of my comfort zone and into the territory of New Zealand Gewürztraminers and Romanian Pinot Noirs (“running barefoot through grass” really is a taste and not a pompous exclamation from wine experts!)
I always fancied myself as someone who knows a thing or two more about wine than the average punter. While it may (or may not) be true, with Helen’s help I was able to get a refresher course in wine tasting: Look, Smell, Taste… rather than my usual slugging back, thinking only of its alcoholic properties and the name of the grape and where it was plucked from the vine.
I came upon KMWC shortly after getting to grips with the art of cooking meat (well), hitherto being primarily a baker. Now I understand the theory behind food and wine pairings that go way beyond white-with-fish-red-with-meat. Easter Sunday’s lamb shall be served with a Chianti of the Sangiovese grape: warm, juicy and red with medium acidity and tannins for the delicious fattiness of the meat.
Whole new grape varieties have opened up to me: Grenache, Semillion, Riesling and Primitivo. The covert labels of French wine are now decipherable and I find meaning in regions like the Hunter Valley and Burgundy.
With its tempting pink, brown and gold hardback cover, it is as enjoyable to read as your favourite Guilty Pleasure Lit, with all the added benefits of digesting a much more erudite tome on the particulars of wine. It’s so practical you may need to carry it with you at all times to refer to when scouring the wine shelves or perusing the menu at the wine bar.
Funny, light and quaffable. Notes of humour and zest, tasting much more expensive than it really is and with an excellent balance between the heavy facts of wine theory and the lightness that should always accompany wine, whatever the occasion. Knackered Mother has made an absolute vintage of a book that is the first of its kind.
For more full-bodied insights, buy the book and head to the blog or follow Knackered Mother on Twitter. Not only does she bestow us with some of life’s more important lessons, but she’s very friendly, too.