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Trade bids fond farewell to Gerard Basset

Published:  17 June, 2019

Winchester Cathedral provided a fitting setting on Friday for the memorial service of Gerard Basset OBE, MS, MW, MBA, MSc (OIV), as members of the wine and hospitality worlds turned out in force to commemorate the remarkable life of a much loved and admired man.

During the thanksgiving service Nina Basset and son Romané spoke movingly and fondly of Gerard juggling the roles of husband, father, businessman and being perhaps the most remarkable and driven sommelier the world has ever known.

Gerard passed away in January after a battle with cancer, cutting short a remarkable career that began in earnest at Chewton Glen, where he became head sommelier, in a role that was created for him, and from where he rose to global prominence, as a founder of the Hotel du Vin group, and later at Hotel TerraVina, which he set up with Nina.

Along the way he achieved the distinction of becoming one of only three people to hold both Master Sommelier and Master of Wine qualifications, later adding MBA and MSc to his name, to be crowned by an OBE in 2011 and the Ordre du Mérite Agricole from the French government in 2017.

However, it is not the remarkable string of qualifications that Gerard is best remembered for. Rather, his generosity in mentoring, sharing knowledge and expertise, inspiring those around him, and his approach to both the wine and the hospitality worlds, which could best be described as humble and respectful. And, at heart, he remained a sommelier, driven to share his knowdedge and passion for wine. 

A generation of sommeliers, along with many in the wider wine trade, all have personal stories of how Gerard touched and help shape their lives, with what seemed like endless patience and selfless giving up of his time for others.

Paying tribute to his father during the service, Romané said that "whenever he takes a glass of wine and holds it up to the light, he sees the glint in his father's eye, smiling to see that his legacy lives on".

Fellow OBE, Jancis Robinson MW, added: “There are some people that have achieved so much, their spirit is so strong, that they never leave us.”

She said that one of Gerard’s great strengths was that he really cared, and not just about great wines, but his enthusiasm for all wine, and about giving “people what they, and not he, wanted”.

It was this democratic, inclusive, passionate approach that embraced all that was the true measure of Gerard Basset and his success.

As magnums of fizz, from Gusbourne, Pol Roger, Ruinart and others beside flowed at the reception, restaurant and wine consultant Martin Lam summed up the thoughts of those present.

“I don’t think the world will see the likes of Gerard again for quite some time, if ever,” mused Lam.

While fighting illness Gerard finished his memoir, Tasting Victory, to be published by Unbound following a successful and still ongoing crowdfunding excericse, the suplus of which is to feed into a scholarship set up in his name.