There's no such thing as a bad Monty. It's like John Lewis or Father Christmas: one of those reassuring, cockle-warming, kindly names obverse to all things wicked and evil. The worst thing a Monty ever did was to bite my arm when I was 14, but even then it was only after being unreasonably provoked with a stick. I'm sure I deserved it. When he finally died, we buried him at the end of the garden. I sure did love that cat.
My point is, a man named Monty is a man to be trusted. Historical Montys prove it: Field Marshal. Python. Uncle. And today, we can add Waldin to that list. Not a bad egg among them. And if you think that's spurious, wait until you get a load of biodynamics.
Kidding, kidding, kidding. I'm no BD-basher. Indeed, I am greatly in favour of biodynamics as a practice that values the sustainability of a patch of earth and the life it supports. I don't personally believe in some of its tenets, but I wouldn't begrudge anyone the right to. Nor do I think biodynamics is always applicable everywhere, but I salute its principles unreservedly.
The focus of Monty Waldin's new book is a buying guide to the best biodynamic wines. There is a concise, intriguing and well-composed introduction to the fundamentals of biodynamics, but priority is soon given over to practice rather than theory. What follows is a readable, well-selected guide to biodynamic wines from all around the world.
It is presented by grape variety and style, with over 170 different wines, all from different producers. These range from world-renowned names such as DRC and Ch Pontet-Canet to somewhat humbler outfits such as Sedlescombe in southeast England. The many photographs, bottle shots and label scans are apposite and well integrated. The feel of the book is overall very pleasing, with a matte finish to the images and a tactile, pale buff-coloured paper that evokes environmentalism, somehow. (I see that the publisher, Floris, specialises in books on organics and biodynamics, so the choice of paper is surely no accident.)
Waldin's tone is authoritative but never overtly evangelical, although perhaps some of the more cosmic references might perplex newcomers or sceptics. The only thing I might question is the twice-made suggestion that biodynamics is validated because 'no biodynamic cow has ever contracted mad cow disease or BSE.' That may be true, but it is scientifically unsound to imply that biodynamics confers immunity from the condition. A small complaint, perhaps – but when dealing with any faith-based system, ambitious claims such as this invite scrutiny they might be better off avoiding.
However, the point of this book is not to debate biodynamics itself but to discover its potential in the tastiest way possible. Bookshelves are not shy of wine buying guides, but Waldin's biodynamic selection is a valuable addition for any wine lover, be they devout, agnostic or otherwise – for here the evidence is signposted, that you might decide for yourself.