Half way through the first episode of Chateau Monty, Monty Waldin’s adventure in biodynamic growing in the south of France, his new assistant looks up at the saw-toothed Pyrenees looming over her and says, ‘I’m not going to moan too much as it’s really really nice here.’
That’s how I feel about this Channel 4 programme. It’s engaging and funny, Monty and his vineyard worker, the feisty Lindsay, are charming together, and both are TV naturals. So I don’t want to moan.
But at the same time I feel like sending the producers my dentist’s bills after grinding my teeth to stumps listening to the dreadful voiceover, and the ghastly music.
If anybody influential at Tiger Aspect is reading this, please sack the person who wrote the script. Take note: Geoffrey Palmer, in twinkly uncle mode, talking about ‘Frenchies’ and ‘Johnny Foreigner’, and using phrases like ‘over the moon’ with a chuckle as if it’s just occurred to him, can seem patronising. I can’t believe I have to spell this out.
It’s a tribute to the quality of the personnel that the programme works despite the narrator and the possibly more annoying Jean de Florette soundtrack.
Waldin – a respected author, Decanter contributor and expert on biodynamic winemaking – has put his life savings into a vineyard in Saint-Martin-de-Fenouillet, east of Perpignan.
The first programme deals with his efforts to find a vineyard. Plot after plot is rejected – one has powerlines which will seriously affect the influence of the moon – until he hits on the perfect south-facing field.
As Monty explains, ‘You can only make quality wine on a steep slope’ (although that’s a slightly ill-advised comment from the author of Discovering Wine Country: Bordeaux).
There’s a hilarious search for an assistant. He finally employs Lindsay Bisset, a former BMW saleswoman from Birmingham.
She’s far more gung-ho than Waldin’s girlfriend Silvana, who looks down her nose at the vineyard and escapes back to civilization, never to be seen again.
The film’s full of nice lines as the pair set about biodynamising the five-and-a-half acre plot.
Monty to Lindsay, facing a steaming mound: ‘It’s just you and me and 15 tonnes of shit’.
Monty on biodynamics: ‘To a vine, the best sound in the world is the sound of the grower’s boots.’
And there’s a wonderful cameo by the late Bill Baker. Reading the reviews in the national press, no one can quite believe him. Nancy Banks-Smith in the Guardian calls him ‘a mountainous wine buyer with a laugh that rocks the room.’
She adds, with unwitting and rather poignant irony, ‘Whatever he’s drinking, I’ll have a case of it.’
As for the wine, available at Adnams for £7.99, we tasted the 2007 and found it ‘expressive on the nose – lots of juicy aromas with a good purity of fruit. The palate’s a little thin but has good acidity…all in all a good first effort.’
Read Monty Waldin’s account of setting up the vineyard, published in Decanter magazine, September 2008
Written by Adam Lechmere