The Knackered Mother's Wine Club: an extract

In advance of our Mumsnet Twitter Party with Helen McGinn, blogger and author of The Knackered Mother's Wine Club, we're publishing an extract from her book to whet your wine whistle.


What wine when?

Life is too short for lots of things. Stuffing a mushroom for one (Shirley Conran). Too short to be livin' with stress, for another (Dizzee Rascal). While I agree with both Shirley and Dizzee, my own personal favourite, unsurprisingly, is that life's too short to drink bad wine.

Obviously, you should drink whatever you are in the mood for, it's just that by putting a bit of thought into the matching bit, you can improve a meal no end. And if you are cooking something that requires some effort and time, why not bring out the best in the flavours with a wine that supports the dish rather than works against it? By opening the right bottle mid-week, you can perk up even the slackest meal by making the flavours sing rather than mumble. And by putting the right bottles on the table when someone important comes for dinner, you can look ever so knowledgeable (which, having read all this, you now are).

The thing is, you need to put it into practice in order to learn from experience. Here are some combinations to try, both classic and not so classic. Remember to scribble a note in your posh notebook/on your phone so that you can repeat the successful pairings and avoid the ones you don't like. Not that any of these ones won't work; believe me, I've done my homework.

Dish – main ingredients Classic pairing Not-so-classic pairing
Simple salad Pinot Grigio  Picpoul de Pinet (southern French white) 
Mushroom risotto  Chianti Chilean Pinot Noir 
Thai fish curry  Gewürztraminer from Alsace   Australian Pinot Gris
Burger Cabernet Sauvignon from anywhere  Californian Zinfandel 
Five-spice pork belly  New Zealand Pinot Noir  New Zealand Chardonnay 
Lamb chops with herb butter  Red Bordeaux (Cabernet/Merlot blend)  Argentinian Malbec 
Chicken curry (mild)   Beer  Champagne (not kidding) 
Lasagne  Chianti  Southern Italian Red (Primitivo, Nero d'Avola) 


10 things I know about wine and want to share with you

  1. New Zealand Pinot Noir is usually divine.
  2. Cheap South African red usually isn't.
  3. Champagne with a bit of age is much more interesting than young stuff.
  4. Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon from the Colchagua region tastes a bit like chocolate.
  5. The Nebbiolo grape (of Barolo fame) is an awkward bugger but I still love it.
  6. English wines, especially sparkling ones, are definitely getting better and will have their moment.
  7. Chinese wine will be on our shelves before long. Made in China.
  8. Top-end Burgundy is to die for, really.
  9. I thought I preferred Old World Sauvignon Blanc to New World Sauvignon Blanc, but I was wrong.
  10. Left-field is good: Austrian Grüner Veltliner, southern Italian reds, undiscovered Languedoc reds...


Ring the changes

Have a look at this list to get you in the mood for trying something different, with confidence:

White wines

If you like... Then try... Why?
Fruity Chardonnay Marsanne or Roussane from the South of France Same warm peachy fruit, but the grape varieties are less well known. I promise you they can be utterly delicious 
Not-too-fruity Chardonnay  Coretese from Italy Gavi, for example, is just one Italian dry white that does fresh fruit, but not in an in-your-face way 
Sauvignon Blanc  Ruede from Spain  Light, lemony and refreshingly different. Rueda is the region, so look for this on the label. Verdejo is the grape. 
Pinot Grigio A. N. Other crisp dry white from Italy (Falanghina, Cortese, Fiano)  Because Pinot Grigio is fine, but there are so many other delicious Italian whites to try... and so little time 
Riesling  Pinot Gris from New Zealand  If you like Riesling, then you might not want to change at all. But if you do, try a Pinot Gris (same grape as Pinot Grigio but more French in style). Clasically beautiful 

Red wines

If you like... Then try... Why?
Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec from Argentina Big, bold and just a little warmer in style. Will make you want to dance, possibly even tango
Merlot Grenache (probably blended with Syrah and Mourvèdre) from the South of France Same soft red fruits with added sunshine and oomph. Here, the sum is very definitely greater than the parts
Shiraz Syrah from the northern Rhône Same grape, but French ones from the Rhône Valley tend to have a sort of ‘coolness’ to them, both in terms of climate versus Australia, and in the style of the wine. Not so shouty, but lots to shout about, if you see what I mean
Tempranillio Tempranillo from Ribero del Duero If you like Rioja, try the reds from here. You’re still in Spain, just trying something different.

Reproduced from the The Knackered Mother's Wine Club by Helen McGinn, with kind permission from Pan Macmillan.






Last updated: about 3 years ago