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Château Monty 
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 again.] 

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 again. 

Chateau Monty is on Channel 4 (www.channel4.com/4homes/on-tv/chateau-monty) on Thursday evenings from 4th September. 

My review of Monty's wine, which is actually pretty good, is here. 

see also: my series on biodynamic wine

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