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Helen McGinn’s top wines for Damp January

The TV wine expert and author of The Knackered Mother’s Wine Club shares her top drinks picks for a Dry January swerve

For the brave souls doing Dry January in lockdown, we salute you. For everyone else, have faith – it is possible to find quality quaff on a January budget. We recruited Helen McGinn, TV wines expert, author of the Knackered Mother’s Wine Club and true Muddy kindred spirit, to guide us through the drinks aisle…

Helen McGinn wine expert Knackered Mother's Wine Guide

Honestly, my intentions were good but then, you know, lockdown. So, my Dry January has turned into Damp January. And with seemingly little to look forward to at the moment, I’m not planning on sacrificing a really nice glass of wine in the evening just yet.

Given that choosing what to wear currently takes no time at all (the grey tracksuit bottoms or the blue ones?), at least when it comes to what to drink the possibilities are endless. Here’s my current pick of the bunch:

Bargain bubbles: Classics Cremant, £10, M&S

If you want baby Champagne at Prosecco prices, this is it. From the Bourgogne region, this is a blend of mostly Pinot Noir with a dollop of Chardonnay, Gamay and local grape Aligote and the result is like just-crushed lemon biscuits in a glass. Properly good value for money and the winner of the 2020 Great Value Sparkling trophy at the International Wine Challenge.

Winter warmer: Silene Limoux Chardonnay, £9.99, Co-op

Brilliant, peachy white made from the Chardonnay grape grown in the Limoux region in Southern France, this is round and ripe and full of warm, tropical fruit flavours. Made by a great producer, Paul Mas. Apparently, the guy on the front was a companion of Bacchus, the wine god. Quite the wingman.

woman drinking wine bath

Body beautiful: Tesco Finest Saint Chinian, £9, Tesco

This is a southern French cocktail of grapes including Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. A bit like a baby Rhone red, the resulting blend is gently spicy, a touch earthy (in a good way – think rosemary and smoke) and has got buckets of black fruit flavours. Just add a bowl of stew and you’re good to go (to the sofa).

Sherry amour: Hidalgo Manzanilla 50cl, £7.99, Majestic

No, I haven’t gone all nana on you. Seriously, this sherry it ticks all the boxes. It’s the perfect aperitif, it’s great value and delivers just the kind of wake-me-up flavours our post-Christmas jaded taste buds need right now. Bone dry with a salty tang, have a small chilled glass as you potter in the kitchen before dinner. Once opened, it’ll last for a good few weeks in the fridge.

Teatime treat: Royal Flush 75cl, £6.50 (normally £8), Waitrose

Made from First Flush Darjeeling (basically the first pickings), this is sparkling fermented tea, aka kombucha. It tastes of white peaches with a bit of gooseberry thrown in but with a savoury bite from the fermentation. It counts as non-alcoholic at less than 0.5%, so if you are looking for an alcohol-free alternative to sparkling wine, this’ll do nicely.

Helen’s book, The Knackered Mother’s Wine Guide, is out now. For more recommendations, visit her wine blog, knackeredmotherswineclub.com. Helen’s debut novel, This Changes Everything, is released on 9 February and is available to pre-order now.

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