Date of Birth: 13 July 1967, Winchester, England. British citizen. Real name: Matthew Waldin.
Education, Qualifications: Twyford Preparatory School, Winchester, Hampshire, England (1977-1980). | Bedales School, Hampshire, England (1980-1985). | Oxford Brookes University (1986-1989). Bachelor of Arts Degree (English & History) with Honours. | WSET Diploma (1994).
Languages: English (mother tongue). French, Italian.
Books: Wines of South America, 2003 (Winner James Beard Award Best Wine Book, USA). | The Organic Wine Guide, 1998 (Winner UK Wine Guide of the Year 1999). | Biodynamic Wines, 2003 (Winner World Food Media Award). | Biodynamic Wine, 2016 (Infinite Ideas, 2016).
Contributor: Decanter magazine. | GrapeCollective.com. | Oxford Companion to Wine ed. Jancis Robinson MW and Julia Harding MW (Oxford University Press), entries on Biodynamics, Organics, cover crops, natural wine and sustainability.
Radio, TV: 1994+ Various appearances both live and pre-recorded on TV (BBC1, BBC2), radio (BBC Radio Four, BBC local radio). | 2007-2008 The subject of ‘Château Monty’, a 6-part observational TV documentary on Channel 4 (UK) filmed over 18 months, of Monty growing and making Biodynamic wine in Roussillon, France, the first TV programme of this type. | 2014 Produced England’s first Petillant Naturel sparkling wine from Demeter-certified Biodynamic grapes, a 100% Chardonnay called ‘Monty’s Pet Nat’, the grapes coming from Albury Organic Vineyard in Surrey, near London.
Podcast: 2016+ Co-creator and host of the Italian Wine Podcast (Mainly English language, sometimes in Italian, occasionally funny). Winner Best Interview Born Digital Wine Awards 2018 (for a podcast interview with Joe Bastianich).
Work experiences: 1984-1995 Stagiare or apprentice in Bordeaux, Chile, Germany and California with various respected oenologists, winemakers (Marc Quertinier, Jacques Lurton, Friedrich Becker, Walter Schug, Stefan Dorst, Gérard Gauby).| 1998 Created a biodiversity ‘VineGarden’ project for Bobby Fetzer and other members of the Fetzer family (who are among California’s organic & Biodynamic wine pioneers). | 2006+ Occasional Biodynamic consultant to various wineries in both hemispheres.
Wine judge: 2014+ Regional Chair for Tuscany at the annual Decanter World Wine Awards, London. | 2018+ Chair for Wine Without Walls, 5 Star Wines, a blind tasting of organic, Biodynamic and Natural wines organised by VinItaly International which is held in Verona, Italy. 2019+ Co-General Chairman of 5Star Wines The Book.
Speaking: Recent keynote speaking to international conferences on Biodynamics-Organics in England (2014, Demeter UK), New Zealand (Organic Wine Conference, 2015), Serbia (Dec 2017, Demeter Serbia), Austria (Feb 2018, Demeter Austria), San Francisco (May 2018, Demeter USA). Presented a Biodynamic Masterclass for Vince magazine at the Budapest Wine Show, 5-7 April 2018, Hungary. Co-organizer of the first International Biodynamic Wine Conference hosted by Demeter USA in San Francisco (6-7 May 2018). Presented a Masterclass on Brunello de Montalcino DOCG for Decanter magazine in London on 02 June 2018. Presented a Biodynamics 101 masterclass at Wine2Wine in Verona 27 November 2018.
Q&A (from an interview for the Decanter World Wine Awards or DWWA 2013)
Tell us a bit about your expertise and how you got into wine?
I got into wine as a teenager when my teacher sent me to France to improve my spoken French. Having made wine at home as a kid I managed to wangle a job on a Bordeaux château for the summer holidays. Having a big nose well suited to wine-tasting meant my career path was soon assured, and at a reassuringly early age. I have a very long-standing interest in organic and biodynamic wine-growing because both my maternal grandfather and my father grew most of their own vegetables. I learnt to recycle garden waste into soil-enhancing compost as a youngster. I probably spend as much time making biodynamic compost for vineyards as I do writing. Vineyards which recycle their green waste leftovers from winter pruning and winemaking are more likely to produce wines showing a greater, more unique sense of place, and with a lower environmental footprint. It’s a win-win for everyone, I feel.
What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned while working in the wine industry?
Probably two lessons: 1) even though the customer is king wine industry types often forget this. Wine can be art, or science, or history, or romance, or whatever you want it to be, but from a wine-grower’s perspective the best bottle of wine is one which has be sold, paid for, drunk and enjoyed; 2) long wine industry lunches are invariably less good for your waistline and understanding of wine than time spent walking around vineyards with those that know them.
Who has been your biggest inspiration during your wine career?
When I was learning how to make wine in Bordeaux as a teenager an oenologist called Marc Quertinier (who had worked with many of Bordeaux’s top châteaux) taught me three key things: never judge a wine by its label, always see the positive in any wine before looking for the negative, and never overlook the importance of a wine’s texture. I try to keep these in mind when tasting and drinking wine
What are your most memorable wine moments from the last ten years?
Rather immodestly I am going to have to say seeing ordinary people enjoy my ‘Chateau Monty’ wines. These were inexpensive, no frills wines for everyday drinking made with minimal inputs in either the vineyard or winery. They were made to be drunk rather than talked about, and they did the job
What’s your ‘desert island’ wine? On a desert island living conditions would be pretty basic, and it would be hot. So delicate wines like Riesling, Burgundy or claret might not survive. Hence I would have to go for sherry, or best of all plenty of indestrucible Madeira both to drink and to help disinfect the succession of small wounds and bites I would get from desert island living
What single piece of advice do you have for new people just starting out in wine? Spend 98% of your time in the vineyards, 1% in the winery and 1% talking about and tasting wine. Your understanding of wine will deepen only if you have learnt how to “read” a vineyard. By that I mean understanding whether everything in that vineyard – the soil, the vines, the insects or birds flying around, weeds on the ground – appears as it should be. If the vines are in balance then the winemaker shouldn’t have too much work to do, and that’s the way it should be.
When judging, what are you looking for in great wine? Honesty. By that I mean a great wine for me is one with a sense of place, even if that place is quite humble, because it means the wine has a personality, a unique identity of the vineyard it came from.
Finally, what are you looking forward to most about judging at the Decanter World Wine Awards? The fact that we as judges are under more pressure than the winemakers who have sent their wines in. We need to be consistently on top of our game to make sure we are giving each wine a fair chance, to accept the pressure we are under and to thrive on it. We must be able to put aside our own prejudices, and be capable and willing to deal with each wine on its own merits so that the cream can float to the top. Tuscan wines are not made for blind tasting but for food, because Italy is all about the family and the table. We need to keep this in mind when tasting Tuscan, and celebrate it.
Q&A (from an interview in Decanter for DWWA 2019)
Monty Waldin is a British broadcaster, author, and occasional winemaker specialising in organics and biodynamics. Experience working in conventional, organic and biodynamic vineyards and wineries in both hemispheres with the likes of the Lurton, Fetzer, and Gauby families convinced him where the future of luxury crops like wine lies. In 2008 he was the subject of ‘Château Monty’, the first observational TV wine-making documentary series. This followed him making a biodynamic Carignan red in France’s Roussillon. In 2014, Monty produced the UK’s first Biodynamic ‘Pet nat’ fizz from Surrey-grown Chardonnay.
As well as writing regularly for Decanter, Monty contributes the entries on organics, biodynamics and sustainability for the Oxford Companion to Wine. Monty studied Italian whilst researching a travel guide to Tuscan wine in the mid-2000s. He co-created and now hosts VinItaly International’s (English language) Italian Wine Podcast. Monty became Regional Chair for Tuscany at the DWWA in 2013.