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Basset legacy scholarships to tackle “shameful lack” of MW and MS diversity

Published:  03 March, 2021

Leading lights from the world of fine wine have announced plans to find the future BAME and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of colour) hospitality leaders, by launching two new MS and MW scholarships which will be funded via a new glittering awards ceremony at London hotspot Annabel’s.

Last night, Nina Basset FIH and others came together to announce a major new collaboration aimed at finding and funding “future hospitality leaders” while addressing the issue surrounding the lack of diversity in the wine trade.

Spearheaded by Liquid Icons, a project founded by the late Gerard Basset OBE MW MS and Lewis Chester DipWSET, the initiative will witness the launch of both The Golden Vines Awards, to be held in Mayfair in October, and The Golden Vines Diversity Scholarships, which will put two candidates through either their MW or MS qualifications.

Ronan Sayburn MS, CEO of the UK/European Chapter of the Court of Master Sommeliers called the scholarships, which will cover the costs of the programmes of study worth up to £55,000 each, “Unique in scale and ambition … an incredible opportunity”.

The Golden Vines Awards will be used to fund the initiatives. Billed as the ‘Oscars of fine wine’, the event will be held at Annabel’s Private Members’ Club in Mayfair on 7 October 2021.

According to Nina Basset, the scholarships seek to address the current lack of “black masters of wine and only three BIPOC master sommeliers, all of which are based in the United States”.

“The industry at the top level is disappointingly devoid of diversity. We hope through the scholarships … we will help to change the world in a small way and honour Gerard’s legacy,” she said.

Chester, himself one of Basset’s protégées, called out the “shameful lack” of diversity in the global wine trade and recognised the need to have diverse role models at the very top level of the industry.

“Unfortunately, to date we don’t have any, but we’re intending to address that,” he said.

The application window for The Golden Vines Diversity Scholarships opens on 8 March to anyone with a firm background in hospitality who has also showed diversification into the wine side of service.

Passion for wine is a “must”, added Adrian Garforth MW, executive director, Institute of Masters of Wine.

Liquid Icons expects to raise over £1 million for The Gerard Basset Wine Education Charitable Foundation, which will also go towards funding international grassroots programmes including Wine on Wheels, UC Davis School of Enology & Viticulture in the USA, BAME Wine Professionals and the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) in the UK.

Funding will also be used to address the lack of aboriginal representation in the Australian wine trade.

According to Lewis, there are currently no prominent Aboriginal wine trade professionals in the Australian wine industry.

The not-for-profit Golden Vines Awards event will recognise the ‘star performers of the fine wine industry’ with various categories including the World’s Best Fine Wine Producer Award and the Rising Star Award, as well as an ‘Aladdin’s cave’ of charity auctions, featuring donated lots from Dom Pérignon, Egon Müller, Domaine de la Romanée Conti and Château d’Yquem among others.

Proceeds will be used to fund The Gerard Basset Wine Education Charitable Foundation and the Liquid Icons scholarships and other worldwide initiatives.

Nina Basset said the scholarships are just the “start of something we’re very keen to roll out across other areas besides BAME and BIPOP but also within the UK and internationally, so watch this space”.