A new Channel 4 series on wine
Wine returns to national television tomorrow night in
the form of a reality TV series titled Château Monty, on Channel 4
(Thursday evenings, 8 pm, from September 4th). The program follows the
fortunes of 39 year old wine writer Monty Waldin (above) as he sets
out to makes some wine in the Roussillon region of France.
The first episode begins with some beautiful shots of the
Roussillon, plus the obligatory French ‘good life’ shots of people
being jovially convivial in the town square, and drinking wine happily
under dappled sunlight. There are even some snails being consumed.
We’re told that Monty has chucked in his job (does that
mean no more wine journalism, then?) and has cashed in every last
penny of his savings to make his wine. ‘It’s a massive risk’,
says Monty in a rather deadpan, unemotional voice, ‘and if it all
goes wrong I’ll be in massive debt’.
So we go vineyard hunting. Again, we are told that Monty
is risking his life savings to find the perfect vineyard. One vineyard
is deemed unsuitable because it has an electricity pylon in it. ‘It
will interfere with my lunar cycles’, says Monty. Another vineyard
is unsuitable because the owner wants £10 000 for it, which is
apparently well over the odds for this part of the world, which
despite its beauty is actually one of the cheapest places to buy
decent vineyard land.
So just how much is Monty risking? Not all that much it
seems. He admits in an interview on the C4 website that he didn’t
actually buy a vineyard for the series – merely rent one. So what is
the risk (and remember, without a big risk and incipient peril,
reality TV like this loses its edge)? Monty is well connected with the
wine trade. He’s made wine before in several countries. He knows a
lot about viticulture. He’s been signed up for this series on
national TV, which is a huge break for a wine writer who admits
elsewhere that his five published wine books have yet to earn a penny
in royalties beyond the advances. Even if he makes mediocre wine,
there will be a market for it because it enjoys the sort of publicity,
through the TV series, that money can’t buy. There really isn’t
that much risk/incipient peril at all. Some will have to be found!
The fact that Monty will be farming biodynamically is
introduced. ‘Biodynamics is harvesting cosmic planetary forces into
your vineyard, into your plants, to make them receptive to beneficial
energies.’ The late Bill Baker (right) appears as a
biodynamic sceptic. ‘I think it’s deluded, sad and very, very
funny’, he remarks with a manic cackle. In fact everything Monty
says seems to prompt extravagant laughter on the part of Bill. ‘I
hope we can do some dancing half naked in the vineyard when the moon
is on the rise’, he quips before giving another hearty laugh.
Monty’s pretty Italian partner Silvana appears. She is
scouting out the location, and looking a bit pouty. ‘What about the
toilet’, she asks when she sees the vineyard shack. ‘We’ll have
to dig a hole’, Monty replies. It turns out that Silvana has a
‘very high powered important’ job in Italy and won’t come to the
Roussillon (but maybe she could lend Monty some money if he runs into
financial trouble?), so Monty then sets about hiring an assistant. This
is safe reality TV territory, and so we meed (very briefly) 30
hopefuls. Monty opts for a 34 year old Brummie called Lindsay, who’s
a divorcee, and a bit of a ‘girl’. ‘I could be on the verge of
making an almighty cock-up’, says Monty. [The producer is happy
Lindsay heads out to join Monty in the village of St
Martin de Fenouilledes, the nearest habitation to the vineyard, where
they rent a house together. Lindsay is shocked because it isn’t as
smart as most English houses. They head out to the vineyard to begin
work. ‘I want you to feel connected to the vineyard’, says Monty.
‘I think he thinks I’m a bit of a blond bimbo’, says Lindsay.
‘He’s probably right’.
So the stage is set for the series, which I’ll certainly
be following every week. However you feel about rather formulaic
reality TV, you have to admit it’s great to have wine on the TV
Monty is on Channel 4 (www.channel4.com/4homes/on-tv/chateau-monty)
on Thursday evenings from 4th September.
review of Monty's wine, which is actually pretty good, is here.
also: my series on biodynamic wine
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