To mark International Women’s Day, we invited Helen McGinn to share her experience in the wine industry and what she will be drinking on Monday 8th March!
Q: Tell us about you and your current role?
I’m an author, drinks writer and TV wine expert and I live in the New Forest with my husband, three children and too many dogs.
Q: Tell us about your experiences of becoming an author and how did you start?
My first book was actually a wine guide, The Knackered Mother’s Wine Club, based on my blog of the same name. A publisher spotted the blog and suggested we turn it into a book – an absolute dream and it was updated and republished last year.
I’ve written a few more drinks books including Homemade Cocktails (had a lot of fun researching that one) but I realised I had a fiction book in me too. I started writing it about four years ago and the last meeting I had before lockdown last year was with a publisher offering a two-book deal. This Changes Everything has just been published and I’m currently working on my second novel. Writing fiction is a very different experience to writing fact-based books, both exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure.
Q: Tell us about your experiences as a woman working within the industry?
My very first job in the wine industry was as a trainee wine buyer for a big supermarket and my boss and mentor were both brilliant women who supported and encouraged me at every step. There were definitely times on buying trips when I was the only woman in the room and on more than one occasion I was asked if my ‘boss’ would be joining. Otherwise, my own personal experience has been hugely positive.
Q: Throughout your journey has there been someone who inspired or mentored you and how did this help you?
Yes, my first boss at Tesco, Ann Marie Bostock. She was an absolute inspiration, so focused and determined but always encouraging. And most importantly, she loved what she did. I learnt so much from her – and we laughed a lot.
Q: What advice would you offer women looking for a career within the wine industry?
It’s not always an easy industry to get into but there are plenty of people willing to help you try. First of all, get tasting. Do a course, join a wine club, whatever you can do to start tasting as many wines as possible. There are so many different areas so have an idea of where you want to go – buying, selling, marketing, making it – and then approach people to ask if you can talk to them about it.
Q: What has been the most challenging but rewarding experience working in the industry?
My supermarket background taught me so much, not least that you have to talk the language of the listener for them to understand. I know it’s a cliché but getting people to try something different and then see them fall in love with a wine is still a joy, even after all these years.
Q: What has been your go to white and red wines during this pandemic?
I have massive FOMO about wine so rarely stick with the same thing but at the moment I’m loving Barbera and Vermentino. Okay, anything Italian.
Q: How will you be celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8th?
I hope to be able to sit outside in the garden with the sun on my face and a glass of something lovely (made by a woman, obviously) in my hand whilst Facetiming my mum and sister.
Helen’s debut novel, This Changes Everything, is out now (£8.99, Boldwood). Visit her blog for more wine recommendations www.knackeredmotherswineclub.com
For more information about our Women in Wine offer, visit corneyandbarrow.com/women-in-the-spotlight