A Visit to Domaine Bernard Baudry, 2016

It is a well-known fact among connoisseurs of children’s television that one of the greatest programmes ever made for younger viewers was Mr Benn. Every episode began with the title character, bedecked in dark suit and bowler hat, calling into a fancy dress shop. The shopkeeper, with trademark Turkish moustache and bright red fez, would kit Mr Benn out before he disappeared through the back door of the shop, where an adventure – appropriate to his costume, of course – inevitably ensued. It would only come to an end when, as if by magic, the shopkeeper appeared, summoning Mr Benn back to his 1970s suburban life.

Bernard Baudry

Looking back at my visit to see what Matthieu Baudry has been up to over the past few years, I realise I didn’t really fit the Mr Benn part. I was wearing shorts (well, it was warm), a pair of sunglasses held together with combination of superglue and hope, and most controversially of all I was sans chapeau. And rather than strolling in off the street en route to a fabulous fancy dress party, I coughed into the courtyard in an American-designed, German-branded and Portuguese-built MPV with a dented door and four mismatched hubcaps. I was as far from the proper demeanour presented by your favourite quintessentially British children’s television character as I could be. Matthieu, meanwhile, was sporting a beard rather than a moustache, and seemed to have forgotten to wear a fez. Nevertheless he still managed, as if by magic, to appear from the office on my arrival. And he was still the director of a superb morning of adventure in the vineyards.

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