Helen McGinn on the camping essentials



Tent and sleeping bag packed, Helen McGinn – the award-winning author behind The Knackered Mothers’ Wine Club – considers the essential vinous supplies required for a camping trip.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not a fan of camping. I’m an unhappy camper, as it were; which is slightly surprising given that I live in the countryside and love being outdoors. I just don’t want to sleep there, under canvas. I’d rather enjoy the comfort of my own bed and a 4.5-tog duck-down duvet, thanks. But, much like childbirth, it can’t be that bad because I’m going back to do it again this summer (camping, that is, not childbirth). I’m heading to Camp Bestival to do a Knackered Mother’s Wine Club wine tasting for a group of fellow wine lovers and, having done it last year, I now know the secret to making everything better when having to brave tents, changeable weather, endless loo queues and slightly over-priced pizza (albeit wood-fired and topped with rocket and goats’ cheese); and that is a stash of really good wine.

Now, most advice dished out on camping wines involves bag-in-box – easier to transport than glass, stays fresher longer, inner bag can be blown up and used as an emergency pillow when empty – and I agree with all of that. But alongside my tried and tested bag-in-box of Côtes du Rhone for under £20 (don’t look at me like that), I’m planning to take a bottle, decanted into a plastic bottle if necessary, that I’ve been saving for a rainy day; except I really hope it’s not raining, clearly. The bottle in question is a 1998 Penfolds Grange Bin 95, bought back in the days when I was a supermarket wine buyer. Along with a then-very-generous staff discount, the wine was snaffled for a relative snip.

My reason for taking such a relatively smart wine is that given how a wine tastes comes down not to just what’s in the bottle, but your mood, the food and the company you’re in when you drink it, you might as well drink your really good stuff when you’re with the people you love. I think hanging out in a tipi-tent in the grounds of Lulworth Castle with family and friends is the perfect place to drink my last bottle of Grange: it beats ginger beer any day. I’ll just add a few not-too-burnt sausages and we’re set for a memorable camping supper; and when we run out of Grange, there’s always the bag-in-box wine…

Helen McGinn is the award-winning author of The Knackered Mothers’ Wine Club, a wine blog and now book (Pan Macmillan, £7.99).